Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup (The Neelys Recipe)

HOORAY! Cooler weather has finally arrived in Houston. (Now the question is, will it stay?) Yesterday, we opened up the windows and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

And in honor of the arrival of Fall weather, I decided to guessed it....SOUP! Chicken Noodle to be exact.

I searched my magazines & the internet and finally settled on making The Neely's Chicken Noodle Soup. The reviews all raved about how wonderful it was, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Here's their recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dash hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into bite-size pieces
  • 4 ounce egg noodles, about 1 cup
  • 8 ounces frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped dill leaves


1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and carrots and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Stir in the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, 1 minute more.

3. Whisk in the flour and stir frequently until it coats the vegetables and makes a paste.

Cook until it reaches a pale blonde color, about 2 minutes.

4. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock, making sure there are no lumps. Add the bay leaf, hot sauce, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes to thicken and develop the flavors.

5. Reduce the heat and add the chicken and the noodles. Do not boil the chicken or it will become tough.

6. Add the peas and the dill...

And simmer gently for 10 more minutes.

7. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and serve.

My Tid-Bits:

* I made very few changes to the original recipe. I only added 1 extra stalk of celery and 1/2 cup more of egg noodles (because many of the reviews said it needed more).

* This soup had a lot of flavor and was very filling. The dill was a little over powering (and I really like dill). If I make it again, I will decrease the dill and add some Italian seasoning. I also won't use the peas, simply because I don't really care for peas in the first place.

* DO NOT cook the chicken before you toss it in the pot. The hot broth will do the cooking. And the Neelys were right...not boiling the chicken makes it very tender!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Morsel from Mom (8th Edition) - Peppered Shrimp

Two of our six nephews joined us at the lake house this weekend. (Yes, we have 6 nephews and 0 nieces. We're surrounded by little boys). They both LOVE shrimp, especially the 16-year-old, so I decided to make them a treat: my mom's Peppered Shrimp. It is buttery, peppery, shrimpy goodness. It's also probably one of the easiest recipes on earth.

(I apologize in advance for the poor pictorial documentation. We didn't get to the lake until late Friday evening & I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table).


* 1 stick butter
* 2 lbs medium or large shrimp, shell on
* lemon pepper
* garlic salt
* black pepper
* French bread


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut butter into cubes & place in a 13"x9" baking dish. Place the dish in oven until butter is melted.

2. Pour shrimp into the dish with the melted butter & toss to coat.

3. Sprinkle shrimp very generously with lemon pepper & garlic salt. Then COVER shrimp in black pepper.

I mean COMPLETELY cover them in pepper. You can't use too much.

4. Bake shrimp for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through.

5. To serve, spoon shrimp onto a plate and top with butter sauce.

6. And now for the best part: Use the French bread to sop up the buttery, peppery goodness left on your plate & in the bottom of the dish.

My Tid-Bits:

* The Hubs absolutely loves this dish. However, for obvious reasons (see #6 above), I don't make it very often. Our hearts might stop prematurely.

* While this dish does use a lot of pepper, it is surprisingly not spicy.

* Be sure to have roll of paper towels on the table. Peeling the shrimp can get messy.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pumpkin Ale Bread

I've already mentioned a time or two (or ten) how much I love Fall and all that it entails.....pumpkins, apples, football, cooler weather, cute sweaters, etc. Want to know why else I love fall?? Fall beers. It may sound a bit odd, but I love Octoberfest beers & Pumpkin Ales. My personal faves are Saint Arnolds & Sam Adams, but they're all good.

I recently read a blog post about a baker in Boston who used Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale to make a delicious pumpkin bread. I instantly knew I had to make it and OH MY HEAVENS am I glad I did!!

If you don't try any other recipes that I share, you should try this one. DELICIOUS!!

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale Bread

Bread Ingredients:
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup Harvests Pumpkin Ale puree (see below)
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp baking power
* 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
* Powdered sugar (for dusting, optional)

Pumpkin Ale Puree Ingredients:
* 1-15-oz. can pumpkin puree
* 2/3 granulated sugar
* 1 bottle Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale (or any Pumpkin Ale)
* 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice


1. Preheat over to 350°.

2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients for Pumpkin Ale Puree.

Mix well & set aside.

3. Combine the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer with paddle attachment at medium speed.

Slowly add the egg.

4. Stop the mixer and add 1 cup of Pumpkin Ale puree. NOTE: Only add 1 cup of the puree, NOT all of it. Turn mixer to low-medium speed and leave it running for 4-5 minutes.

5. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

6. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix for 1 minute at low speed or until all the ingredients are mixed together.

7. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. You can either use butter & flour or the wonderfully magic Baker's Joy spray.

8. Pour the mixture into the pan, leaving room at top of pan for bread to rise.

9. Bake for 60 minutes. Check bread by sticking the center with a knife (when knife comes out clean, remove from oven). If needed, bake for another five to eight minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 - 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

10. Once the bread has fully cooled, finish with light dusting of powdered sugar, if desired.

My Tid-Bits:

* I've made plenty of pumpkin bread recipes over the years, but this one was truly exceptional. The Pumpkin Ale just gives it a bit of a different flavor that is just yummy!

* I took the bread with us to the lake house this weekend. I sliced into it after dinner & 30 minutes later, it looked like this:

Everyone could not get enough. It was SO GOOD! You must try it!

* This Pumpkin Ale Bread would be great to give as a gift or serve at a brunch or Thanksgiving dinner.

* The original recipe uses Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, but my grocery didn't have it, so I subbed in a different Pumpkin Ale. This time of year, you should be able to find at least one brand at any liquor store. World Market carries Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, which is exceptionally good! (Just ask The Hubs. I bought a bottle specifically for this recipe & he accidentally drank it. Oops! I was able to find a different kind at Spec's).

* This recipe also calls for canola oil, but I was all out, so I used vegetable oil instead & it turned out fin.

* The recipe for the Pumpkin Ale Puree makes about 3.5 cups, but the bread recipe only calls for 1 cup of puree. I didn't know what to do with the other 2.5 cups, so I threw it away. Now I know better. Next time I'll just make more bread!

* Isn't my pumpkin loaf pan cute? My friend Jenn gave it to me as a "Thank You" gift last year. It's from Williams-Sonoma and they still have them here.



Friday, September 24, 2010

Shrimp & Roasted Veggie Couscous

Earlier this week, The Hubs requested shrimp for dinner. And I've been on a kick of roasted veggies lately. So, I combined the two and served them over couscous. It made a delicious, fast, easy & healthy meal.


* 24 (ish) medium to large shrimp
* 1 medium zucchini, sliced
* 1 red bell pepper, chopped into large pieces
* 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
* 1/2 an onion, chopped into large pieces
* juice & zest of 1 lemon
* 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
* 1/4 cup chopped basil
* 1 cup cooked couscous
* salt & pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a bowl, toss veggies with 1 Tbsp. EVOO, 1 clove garlic and 2 tsp. Italian seasoning. Transfer to a baking dish & cook for 15 minutes or until desired tenderness.

3. Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to directions on the package. (You will need one cup cooked).

4. Once you get the couscous going, heat 1 Tbsp. evoo in a saute pan with 2 cloves of garlic. Add shrimp & juice from 1/2 a lemon. Saute for 3 - 4 minutes until cooked through.

5. When veggies are done, place couscous in the bottom of a serving dish. Stir in juice from the other 1/2 of the lemon and a little lemon zest. Top with veggies, shrimp & chopped basil. Season with salt & pepper.

My Tid-Bits:

* Makes 2 servings, each with approximately 400 calories.

* I am in love with the McCormick's Italian Seasoning Grinder. You should get one! I've been using it to season all kinds of veggies & meats. The flavor is amazing!

* Want to know what else is amazing? The smell of the pumpkin bread I just pulled out of the oven. It's taking all my will power not to walk back into the kitchen & slice into it right now. Don't worry...I'll be sharing the recipe VERY soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple Praline Bread

I'm always on the hunt for new recipes involving pumpkins & apples. I LOVE using apples & pumpkin in the fall. It just feels right.

Last year, I found this recipe for Apple Praline Bread in Southern Living and HAD to make it. OH MY HEAVENS! It is dangerously tasty.


I couldn't wait to make it again this year, but it had to be for some occasion or else The Hubs & I would eat the entire loaf all by ourselves. Well this weekend I had just the occasion! My bestie & our moms were coming to my house for a little mother/daughter weekend while our husbands were away on a "man trip." I served the Apple Praline Bread along with some things we picked up at the local Farmer's Market for brunch this morning.


* 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
* 1 (8-oz.) container light sour cream
* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb.)
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes.

2. Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

3. Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

My Tid-Bits:

* To keep from making a huge mess, be sure to place a piece of foil under the wire rack before you start pouring on the praline sauce.

* Also, I only used about 1/2 of the praline sauce. It was plenty.

* See those pancakes in the brunch picture. They're delicious! I'll share the recipes for those sometime soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomato Minestrone Soup

I'm still hoping that if I make soups for dinner, fall will come sooner. So far, it hasn't worked. It's still hotter than Hades in Houston. Ugh! At least the soup is tasty!

This Tomato Minestrone Soup is yet another recipe from Rachel Ray.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1/4 pound pancetta or thick-cut prosciutto, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 or 2 medium zucchini, quartered & sliced
  • 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 pound whole wheat penne or other short-cut pasta
  • A handful basil, torn into pieces
  • French Bread


1. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta or prosciutto and cook until browned (about 2 minutes).

2. Add the zucchini, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaf and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Cook until veggies are tender, 7-8 minutes.

3. Stir in cabbage (if using - I just had some left over so I threw it in).

4. Stir in chicken stock, beans and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

5. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Stir in the basil.

6. Serve with slices of French bread for dipping!

My Tid-Bits:

* It says the prosciutto is optional, but I say use it. It adds a lot of flavor. Prosciutto can be found in the deli section of the grocery store. And if your grocery store doesn't have it? Start shopping somewhere else.

* You can add any veggies that you like. The more the merrier. I tossed in the cabbage because I had some in the refrigerator that needed to be used up.

* This soup is VERY filling. I was stuffed after one bowl & one piece of bread. And the best part is that one bowl only has 290 calories and is full of healthy veggies!

* Lastly, if you have any other ideas for making the cooler weather arrive sooner, please share them. I'm over 95 degrees and 90% humidity.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Grilled Fish Tacos

I'm sure most people have their "go-to" meals. You know, the ones you make REALLY often because they are either a favorite or just really easy? We have several of them. Grilled Fish Tacos are a popular "go-to" dinner in our house for many reasons: 1. They are SUPER FAST to make 2. I usually have the ingredients on hand 3. The Hubs loves them and 4. They are healthy.

There's really not much to this "recipe", but I thought I'd share anyway because I make them so often (at least every other week).


* 2 (6 oz.) fish fillets (again, I used Mahi Mahi)
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 2 limes (one juiced & one sliced for serving)
* 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
* fajita seasoning
* 6 corn tortillas
* 1 red bell pepper
* Toppings: shredded cabbage or lettuce, light sour cream, salsa, cheese, etc.


1. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. olive oil with the juice from one lime & 1/2 of your chopped cilantro.
2. Place your fish fillets in a zip top bag & pour marinade in; toss to coat. Let fish marinate for at least 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Cut the red bell pepper into quarters & lightly brush with olive oil.

4. Remove fish from marinade and season generously with fajita seasoning on both sides.

5. Next, grill fish & bell peppers over medium-high heat for 10 - 12 minutes, flipping fish halfway through. (Be sure to grill the peppers skin side down).

6. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. It will look like this...

And your peppers will look like this...

7. No worries, they aren't burnt. Simply peel off the skin & roughly chop.

8. Lastly, using a fork, break the fish into bite sizes pieces & assemble your tacos according to your preference. (As seen below: fish, shredded cabbage, cilantro, light sour cream, salsa, red peppers & lime juice...lots of lime juice).

My Tid-Bits:

* Using 2 (6 oz) fillets, you can easily make 6 hearty tacos. And the best part? One serving (two tacos) has only 255 calories, if you use the same toppings as I did!

* I usually serve these with Mexican Rice, but opted for corn on (or in my case, off) the cob instead last week.

* You can get really creative with your toppings: black beans, pico de gallo, tomatoes, etc. Lately I've seen fish tacos with mango salsa on menus at several restaurants. That sounds tasty, too!

* If you cook fish a lot, like we do, I highly recommend buying a fish basket for the grill. You can buy them almost anywhere (department stores, Home Depot, Target, etc) and it makes grilling fish much easier.


Friday, September 10, 2010

5 Years of Wedded Bliss

On September 10, 2005, I put on a white dress...

Grabbed my bouquet...

Snagged me a groom...
Gathered my family...

And closest friends...

Married the man of my dreams...

And lived Happily. Ever. After.

Happy 5th Anniversary, Hubs! Here's to 50 more...