Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Bacon Ranch Broccoli Salad

Not too long ago, my friend, Jimmy, made this salad for his family and me for dinner.  I thought that kids across America would enjoy broccoli more if it tasted like this!  I asked for the recipe and was told that it was just broccoli and ranch dressing.  Hmmm.  “Surely it’s more complicated than that!” I thought.  I finally gave it a whirl yesterday, and no, it’s not complicated in the least.

Incidentally, this would be good with cauliflower, carrots, peas and many other garden veggies.  What an easy lunch to pack for the job!

1 bunch of broccoli, raw or barely blanched, cut in bite-sized pieces
bacon, cooked and crumbled (I think I used 4 or so slices.)
cheese, grated (I think I used about a cup.)
ranch dressing (from the bottle, from the packet or from scratch–your choice, as much as you want)

Combine above ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Easy Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese sounds good to me right now.  And, when I think of grilled cheese, I sometimes think of tomato soup.  This yummy version can be made with canned tomatoes or fresh, so it’s a great recipe to have on-hand in the year-round.  I’m even thinking of making enough of this to can this summer.  Soup always tastes best to me during the winter months.

2 cans (14.5 oz. ea.) diced Italian tomatoes, undrained (or about 4 c. of diced fresh tomatoes plus some basil, oregano and garlic to taste)
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
6 T. flour
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese

In a blender, process tomatoes until pureed; set aside.

In a large-ish saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until tender, then add garlic and cook about 60 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir flour in until smooth.  Return pan to heat and cook about a minute or so.

Gradually whisk in broth.  Add pureed tomatoes; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes to allow flavors to become lovely.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top…and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.

Hawaiian Chicken

We ran across this recipe recently and decided to try it.  It will be coming out of the slow cooker in 3…2…1…

4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
16-oz. pineapple bits, drained
15-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
3 T. cornstarch
¼ c. brown sugar
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. lemon juice
½ t. salt
½ t. ground ginger
pinch cayenne pepper
1 green bell pepper, cut in strips

Combine all ingredients except bell pepper.  Place in slow cooker.  Cook on low 4-5 hours or on high 2-3 hours.  Add bell pepper one hour before serving.

Serve over rice.

NOTE:  If this is put in your slow cooker frozen, be sure to add a couple of hours to the cooking time.

 

Zesty Chicken

This creamy recipe is a super easy freezer meal option.  When you find chicken breasts at  a good price, buy enough for three or four of these meals, along with the remaining ingredients and you can have supper ready to cook and spares for yourself and a friend in less than 20 minutes.

If you’re steering clear of canned cream soups, you can easily make your own version for not much more time.  There are lots of recipes available online.

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 pkg. cream cheese, cubed
1 pkt. Italian seasoning/dressing mix

Added later:  1 bag frozen broccoli, cauliflower or California medley, if desired

Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stirring to coat.

Cook on low 5-6 hours.  (Add a bag of frozen veggies last hour, if desired.)

If preferred, you can bake this in the oven, covered, at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Serve over rice or noodles.

One-Skillet Arroz con Pollo

My aunt made this for a Christmas get-together last year, and my kids hounded me until I requested the recipe.  It really was very tasty, and we found it very easy to make here at home.  I’m going to give you the recipe as she gave it to me (with my changes in parentheses).

This is a great way to stretch a little bit of leftover chicken into a meal.

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1/2″ strips (I used 2-3 c. chicken leftover from something else.)
3 T. oil
1 medium onion, chunky diced
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used, um…five.)
2 c. salsa of your choice
1 c. monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used colby.)
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. cooked rice
salt, & pepper to taste
1 t. cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, if desired
chopped parsley, if desired

In large skillet, heat oil then add onion and garlic; cook for about 2 minutes.  Add chicken and season with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne.  Cook until chicken is browned on all sides, which happens pretty quickly.

Add salsa and rice; stir frequently while chicken continues to cook.

Add chicken broth, a little bit at a time, stirring frequently while adding.  You may not need it all.  When chicken is cooked through and rice is creamy, remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Top with parsley, if desired.  (Green onions would be really good on top.)

Quick & Crispy Chicken (And I do mean QUICK!)

These only take about 15 minutes to put together, then you can work on some rice or potatoes and veggies as sides while they’re baking.  You’ll have a homemade meal on the table in less time than it takes for your kids to do their homework!  This is also a good recipe to enlist your children’s help, which will eventually make supper prep even quicker!  You can cut these chicken breasts into strips to make homemade chicken tenders if you want.  Just reduce the baking time accordingly.

If you’re wanting to plan ahead, you can also bread a whole bunch of chicken and freeze some for later.  I would lay the chicken out in one layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid, then gently put into a freezer bag.  Or, you can layer the chicken in a smaller container, making sure to put wax paper between the layers.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 c. mayo
2 T. yellow mustard
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 c. crushed cornflakes (Make sure you get your measurement after you’ve crushed them!)
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. onion (or garlic) powder

Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Combine mayo and mustard; brush mixture onto chicken.

Combine cereal crumbs, cheese and seasonings; roll chicken to coat.  Place in a greased baking dish and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until juices run clear.