Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cheeseburger Soup

I watched Diners, Drive-ins and Dives once where they actually put lettuce and tomato in their cheeseburger soup.  I haven't done that yet, but I'm thinking it might be a tasty garnish on top of each bowl.  Try it if you wish.

1 lb ground beef
1 diced onion
1-2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 bag frozen hash browns
32 oz broth- (or more) I've used beef and chicken and like both
2 cups milk (or half and half, or whipping cream if you hate your arteries and only think of your tastebuds.  Not gonna lie, it's amazing that way, but I hardly ever do it.)
2ish cups of shredded cheese- I usually use sharp or mild cheddar, but I've used velveeta and smoked gouda and mozzarella and whatever else I have handy
1/2 cup sour cream
spices to taste- I use seasoned salt, pepper, basil, and mrs. dash

Also, I made this soup for over a year before it occurred to me that bacon would improve this a great deal.  Because really, when does bacon NOT improve a dish?  Throw in a few slices if you've got it. 

Brown beef with onion and celery.  Add other veggies, spices, and broth and simmer for about 15-20 minutes til it's all hot.  The frozen potatoes take a little longer but it gives the carrots a chance to cook too.  If you're adding the bacon, you can cook it and add during this time too.

Add milk next and give it time to warm before adding the cheese.  Then cheese- stir it in slowly so it won't get all clumpy.  You want it incorporated in cheesy saucy deliciousness.  If it's super thick you can add more broth or milk.

Right before serving, stir in the sour cream, or if you prefer you can put a dollop on each individual bowl.  The lettuce and tomato might work nicely too if you go that route.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Top Five: Breakfasts

Continuing on with the "these are a few of my favorite things" theme, I give you breakfast!  We eat a lot of cereal around here- some of them are naturally gluten free, and some of them have been revamped to be that way and still taste good.  There are a few others, like Rice Krispies, that have a gluten free version in addition to their regular one.  Fail on that.  I've seen commercials where they talk about how "whole grain brown rice makes it gluten free".  No.  Rice of any sort is naturally gf.  It was the sweetener that was the problem.  Kellogg's puts barley malt syrup in their regular rice krispies, and whatever they replaced it with in the gluten free version is gross.  It makes me mad when a company keeps the "real, yummy" version and throws a nasty bone at the gluten free community.  Do it like Chex!!  Chex, on the other hand, redid their recipe completely, threw out ALL the barley malt, and made rice, corn, cinnamon, honey nut, and chocolate Chex all gluten free.  They taste GOOD too.

We eat:
  •  Chex, all varieties but the wheat
  • Kix, and I've just recently realized we could eat Trix too.  I don't buy it much though
  • Dora the Explorer (I buy it for daycare but it's good so we all eat it.)
  • Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles and Chocolate Lucky Charms ( but not regular) are GF too but again, I try not to buy sugary ones too much.  My kids are on it like white on rice and bug me til it's gone)
We also eat a lot of fruit and yogurt and toast.  I won't get into my love of weird leftovers for breakfast, but bbq and baked beans do cross my lips on occasion too.

Top five hot breakfast recipes:

Baked Oatmeal
This is the most requested breakfast at my house- a favorite among family, friends, and the daycare.  I make it pretty much how the recipe says, except I ALWAYS double it and put it in a 9x13. I use cinnamon and throw out the orange zest and five spice.  I also don't put the baking powder in.  I can't tell the difference and it's just easier to have one less thing.  I've made it with tons of different variations- it's good with cinnamon, butterscotch, or vanilla chips instead of chocolate, or with no chips at all.  It's good with blueberries, nectarines, blackberries, peaches, and a can of tropical fruit once when I was desperate.  I'd say I make this twice a week on average.  I get Bob's Red Mill gluten free rolled oats and that's the only necessary modification.

Beach House Lasagna
This recipe really does taste a lot better when you can make it the night before and let it sit in the fridge, but I almost never do.  And usually I use slices of lunchmeat instead of ham cubes, and don't usually put the cornflakes and butter on top like I mentioned in the comments on that post.
I use heels of bread loaves for this, or else half loaves of bread I bought that we didn't like enough to eat as sandwiches.  I stick them in the freezer and just make this casserole whenever the bread bags start to fall out on me.

Tater Tot Casserole
I had posted that recipe awhile back, and now it's sort of a template.   If I'm feeling guilty about calories and fat, I use shredded hash browns instead of tater tots, and make my own sauce instead of using the boxed soup.  For breakfast I put turkey sausage links, or the crumbles, or else cubed turkey ham.  If it's lunchtime I use ground beef and throw in a can of creamed corn with the sauce.  You can pretty much do anything to it and my kids are willing to eat it any meal of the day.

The recipe I use is from the Culinary Institute of America gluten free baking book.   I do put less sugar than it calls for- they were crazy sweet the first time I made them.  They still are sweet this way but not too bad.  I eat them plain- no syrup needed so I figure it balances out in the end.

1 1/3 cups CIA flour blend #5
1/3 cup sugar (or less)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dry stuff in bowl.  In separate bowl, mix wet stuff:
4 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla (if you want.  I don't think it called for this originally but we like it better)

Add to dry bowl.  Mix and use.  I use this batter both on my pancake griddle and in my waffle iron.

Okay, I lied about top five.  Top four.  I'm still looking for a baked french toast recipe that I LOVE.  The ones I've tried so far are just okay.  Oh wait, I've only made them twice but I really do like these savory corn cakes too.  Now you got five.  :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gluten Free Favorites

I have a friend who wants to go gluten free and was asking me about brands and favorite recipes.  She asked for my top five go-to recipes.  Great question- never really thought about it before!  I'm going to start with brands while I contemplate meals.  Keep in mind I'm a tiny little food blogger with my own opinions.  None of these are paid or anything like that.  I'd certainly be open to the idea if anybody wants to provide me with stuff to review though!!

I haven't found a from-scratch recipe that works for me at all.  There are some that taste good but are dense and small like hockey pucks, and some that start out tall and fluffy and then cave in the middle and taste yucky.  There's also that weird gritty texture if you mix the flours wrong.  It's a whipping. 

When I first had to go gluten free, there was not one store bought bread that was worth my time.  I just didn't eat bread.  Now there are a lot more options, and although a bunch of them aren't great, a few are, and a few others are at least edible.

  • Udi's is our #1 favorite.  It's the only one I can keep in the pantry and make sandwiches without having to toast it first.  It's kind of small, but that seems to be standard.  It's also the kind of bread that they serve now at Jason's Deli- they have special loaves made for them that are huge.  I tried to buy one and they were $12.95 a loaf.  It's good, but I just can't justify that.  So we eat small yummy sandwiches and just go to Jason's when we want big restaurant bread.  It works.
  • Glutino just revamped their bread- I used to dislike it very muchly.  Now they have a Genius Sandwich Bread that is quite tasty.
  • I don't like Rudy's in either flavor or texture.
  • I didn't like Kinnikinnick when I first tried it, and I haven't gone back to it, although I do hear that they've changed it and it's supposed to be a lot better now.
  • Katz is pretty good but you do have to toast it.  And it's just now becoming available in stores near me- it's a New York based company and just starting to be nationally recognized.  I really like ordering from them though- they have a lot of fun Jewish specialty items.  For Passover last year I bought a $35 gluten free Challah bread that was as big as my forearm and weighed a TON.  It was awesome.
  • Canyon Bakehouse is pretty good but it's usually at least a dollar more than Udi's so I don't get it unless it's on sale.
I prefer a blend of rice and corn or another grain- I think the ones that are all rice tend to get mushy or gummy, and the all corn ones get tough and chewy.  We really love pasta though and I'm willing to eat lots of different kinds.  We buy:
  • Tinkyada- it has the most shapes, and the best lasagna noodles in my opinion
  • Heartland - I really love this one.  I've only seen fusilli and spaghetti and I wish it came in other shapes
  • Sam Mills Pasta D'Oro- this one is all corn.  I don't know if it's monsanto or GMO or whatever.  I know that's a big concern these days.  It's one of the cheapest brands and so I get it for daycare lunches- it's not a family favorite but it'll do in a pinch.  I find it at Big Lots sometimes, which is nice.
  • Trader Joe's brown rice pasta- great price point and pretty tasty as long as you don't overcook it 
  • Archer Farms, the Target brand- like this one a lot too.  Sometimes hard to find around here.
  • I also like the quinoa pasta in the sort of aqua colored box- I forget the brand name.  It's more expensive so I don't usually buy it, but it's tasty.
  • Schar- awesome.  Expensive, but it has tiny little round anellini noodles that I put in soup.
I have a lot of pasta in my cabinets right now.

I haven't tried that other spaghetti brand- Sprouts just started carrying it so I bought some. 

Boxed and processed stuff:
  • Glutino is a pretty great brand.  We like their cookies, pretzels, crackers, and they just started making toaster pastries!!!  I was a major Pop-Tart addict pre gf, so it made me so giddy to find some.  They're the only ones I've seen.
  • Udi's makes great muffins, brownie bites, and pizza crusts.  They make ready-to-bake frozen pizzas too but I haven't tried those yet.  
  • Glutenfreeda makes ice cream sandwiches and burritos.  Expensive and unnecessary, but sometimes I just get a yen for them.  That link is their home page- TONS of recipes.  Click the "our foods" tab to see products.
  • Kinnikinnick makes good oreo-type cookies and pizza crusts.  As I said, they've redone a lot of their products lately, so I don't have the latest tasting info on most of it.
  • Pacific soups are the best-tasting ones, according to my family, especially for cream of whatever.  Progresso does a good cream of mushroom but it isn't condensed.  Gluten Free Cafe and Health Valley cream soups were not worth our time.
Um... what else.  Is that it?   I'm drawing a blank now.  Comment if you think of other stuff you want to know.

Oh, donuts= Katz all the way!!  We just tried their powdered variety last week for the first time and they knock it out of the park.  Granted, I've not had Dunkin' in over five years, but they're closest to what I remember.  Kinnikinnick and Glutino both make some that taste okay but they feel really dense and heavy.  Katz is lighter.  And they make JELLY too.  Can't wait to order some.

And cake mix- King Arthur Flour is LIGHT YEARS ahead of any other brand.  Worth the online order if they don't carry it near you.

Okay Anne, I hope this helps at least a tiny bit!  I'll keep thinking about recipes and do those next.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Apple Butter Cupcakes

 I had pinned a recipe for apple butter cupcakes awhile back.  I've been dying to try them for about a week- they've just been on my mind.  When I went to look up the pin, that blog had been deleted.  Sadness.  They had caramel frosting and some kind of filling and I really wanted them.  But I made these instead and if the smell coming out of my oven is any indication, they're going to be fabulous.  It's based off this recipe.



  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour ( I used King Arthur gluten free flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if you're making this gluten free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 3/4 cup milk ( I used almond)

***Cream Cheese Frosting***
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar


Heat oven to 350°. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake papers. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Beat in the apple butter until well blended. Slowly beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Beat until smooth and well blended.

Fill cupcake papers about 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. (I needed 25 minutes at 360 for the gluten free.)  Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely before frosting.

Makes about 18 to 20 cupcakes.

I also decided these cupcakes needed to be filled.  I got a cupcake corer for my birthday that I haven't tried out yet.  I melted a stick of butter with a cup of brown sugar and made caramel, which I used to fill the cupcakes before frosting them.

You should really make these.  Oh my.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cottage Cheese Salad

Okay, so I had a semi-life-changing experience with cottage cheese this weekend, y'all.  I didn't really have any idea that such a thing was possible.  I don't like cottage cheese.  It's weird diet-y food that makes you feel deprived and it's usually served on a limp lettuce leaf with one sad slice of canned peach and the juice running all under.  Nasty business.

I went to visit my grandma this weekend and she made cottage cheese in a way I've never had.  She said she's always made it this way, ever since she and her mom went to Luby's for lunch one day and tried it.  And since my great-grandma Kel passed away when I was eight, it's true that she's been making it like this for oh, thirty years or so.  I am not sure why I've never seen it or heard of it.

Okay, so, ready for the complicated recipe?

Cottage Cheese
Grape Tomatoes
Green Onions
Black Olives if you like them.


You wouldn't think a little bit of tomato and onion could transform cottage cheese into something I'd look up and suddenly realize that I'd eaten a whole pound of it.  But the fact of the matter is, I did that.  I made it this morning because I've been thinking about it since Saturday, and I've been nibbling out of the serving bowl all morning, and it is just about gone. The great thing is that it is still a diety-type food, except now it tastes good.  A pound of cottage cheese is 280 calories and has a ton of protein.  I don't even have to feel guilty that I ate it all!

I did add a bit of Mrs. Dash, and I'm thinking that chopped cucumber would be really good in it too but I didn't have any today.

It's pretty too!  I used the yellow sunburst grape tomatoes, but when I had it this weekend Grandma used the red ones and it's just as good like that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spaghetti Casserole

I grew up eating this recipe.  Everyone in my family likes it a lot- in fact, my mom refers to it as "Daddy's favorite".  He never, EVER complains about dinner and just eats whatever we cook, but he doesn't really like spaghetti very much.  It's one of those overused, all-we-have-in-the-house-to-eat kind of meals for him.  So when she'd say we were having spaghetti casserole, he'd get all droopy and she would have to backpedal and say no!  Not really spaghetti, it's that casserole one, the one you LIKE!

Yesterday would have been my Gram's 83rd birthday.  We lost her at 70, which still makes me sad every day.  She was such a great lady.  I decided I wanted to cook a meal that would remind me of her, and that we would talk about her at dinner and tell the kids some stories they might not have heard about her life.  I asked my mom what I should make.  The meal that reminds me MOST of her is chicken and dumplings, but I haven't perfected gluten free dumplings yet and a birthday dinner is not the time to play guinea pig with your family.  She suggested I make spaghetti casserole, because the recipe was from her.  All these years I've been eating it and I had no idea. 

So, here is Gram's (daddy's favorite) spaghetti casserole!
1 package spaghetti
1 lb ground beef
2 cans diced tomatoes
some chopped onion and/or bell pepper, whatever you like
1 small can chopped black olives (you can leave it out if you hate them.  Hubby hates them though and he's ok with them in this recipe.  They blend well.)
1 small can mushrooms
2 tsp italian seasoning
2 cups shredded cheddar (I know most italian dishes would call for mozzarella and of course you can do that if you like it better.  I like the pop of the cheddar though.)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (may need to be thinned with 1/4 cup water depending on the brand.  Just use your best judgement on whether it seems too thick and goopy.)
parmesan cheese

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, fry ground beef with onions and peppers.  Add tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and seasoning and simmer about 10 minutes.

In a 13x9 pan, layer all the spaghetti on the bottom.  Then put the shredded cheese, then the meat mixture, and then spread the cream of mushroom soup over the top.  Top it off with parmesan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

It's super easy- way less work than lasagna, but tastes a lot fancier than regular spaghetti.

We served it with roasted asparagus and birthday brownies last night, and reminisced about my gram.  Fun times.