Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

January’s issue of Southern Living had a recipe for homemade condensed cream of mushroom soup. I’m glad to know I am not the only cook that has a love/hate relationship with canned cream of mushroom soup. It’s a secret weapon in my pantry and recipe books: an ingredient I rarely talk about and certainly never brag about, even though it sure does hold a lot of food together.

But food snobbery aside, it is high in sodium and fat, and contains a few things I can’t pronounce, and would rather not eat. And it’s no longer a cheap ingredient. It was possible at one time to buy cream-of-anything soup at the low price of 4 for $1. Then the sales went to 3 for $1, then 2 for $1 and now you’re lucky if you find it for under a buck per can.

That’s where this recipe entered the scene. It is not an ultra frugal recipe (although if you find fresh mushrooms marked down, it could bring the cost down considerably.) My guesstimated cost was somewhere around $8 to make this batch. But it is significantly lower in sodium, and has no preservatives.

I modified homemade-cream-mushroom-soup-sl-lSouthern Living’s version…not on purpose. I dumped in the whole quart of heavy cream before I realized it only called for half that amount. But the final results were what I was looking for, and after using almost half the soup in a couple recipes, I was left with the equivalent of four cans concentrate. They are in my freezer, waiting for the next recipe that calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup.  Here’s Southern Living’s version and here’s my modified version.

Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

3 8-ounce cartons of button mushrooms (whole or sliced – you’re going to dice them. I substituted one can of mushrooms for one carton of fresh, because I had one in the pantry and I wanted to use it up.)
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/3 cup flour
4 cups heavy cream
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (you can use light, fat-free or Neufatchel; the texture may vary slightly)
1/4 teaspoon Better-than-Bouillon chicken concentrate
2 ounces water

Place 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet. Add the chopped mushrooms (I’d recommend dicing them fairly small unless your family likes chunks of mushrooms in their foods.)

Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the mushrooms sweat out their juices and the juices evaporate – approximately 10-12 minutes. This step takes the longest and you really want to keep a close eye on them.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.  Add the remaining butter and flour; whisk into a roux and let bubble for a minute or two over medium heat; do not let it brown.  Gradually add the cream, whisking smooth. Add the cream cheese and stir until smooth. Re-add the mushrooms. The mixture should be velvety and thick – much like the texture of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Cool and divide among 7 or 8 small (10 or 12 ounce) freezer containers or quart-size freezer bags. I portioned out 7 generous servings from this recipe but I’ll stretch it to 8 next time. Thaw before using.

For additional modifications, you can try substituting half-and-half for some of the heavy cream (it may make it “soup-ier”) and low-fat or no-fat cream cheese. Better-than-Bouillon also makes a reduced sodium concentrate that would reduce the sodium content even further.

Happy eating,

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I turned the big 5-0 last February.  To answer the inevitable responses to that statement,

No, I have no idea where five decades went. I just know they went really fast.
No, I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

But with certain milestone birthdays come certain “health screening” procedures, whether you feel all grown-up or not.


Monday and yesterday were consumed by one of those procedures. You know, the one where you devote considerable time to NOT eating, and ummmm, “prepping”…which is far worse than the procedure. The procedure itself is fairly unremarkable, because you get sedated, and then you sleep. And sleep and sleep. At least that’s how mine went, and yesterday afternoon involved eating, napping, eating, napping. (Side note, the results were good news – a clean bill of health.)

january-2014 SL magazineAnd now that THAT’s behind me (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), I’m going to make good on making some one-dish wonders highlighted in this month’s Southern Living magazine.

Rarely does one article have multiple dishes that appeal to me, but this one hit the jackpot with three. This week’s menu lineup includes:

1. Tomato-Basil-Spinach Pasta – I’m adding shrimp and some Italian sausage to mine;
2. Paella-style Orzo with Fish and Herbs which is a great use of orzo in my pantry and tilapia in the freezer; and
3. Hammed-up Macaroni and Cheese to use up some of the left-over spiral ham slices from earlier in the week.

I’m pretty hopeful the rest of the week will go better…although that napping was pretty awesome.

Happy cooking,

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Translated: “Why for you no share any recipes?”


“Hey, what happened to the weekly recipes?”

The realization hit me last week when I finally did post a new recipe: I couldn’t remember the last time I had shared a recipe. The weekly posts had slowed and then altogether stopped. So I asked myself why? And the answer was twofold:

  1. Life has been busier-than-usual, and dinner sometimes takes a backseat to everything else. I have to be home in order to cook. And I find it helpful to have one or more diners on hand if I AM cooking. If one or both of those conditions are not met, dinner doesn’t happen.
  2. When I do cook, I am a terribly forgetful food photographer. I don’t cook with a camera at hand, and by the time I determine we like(d) a new dish, it’s too late to snap any photos. An empty dish may be a positive sign, but it’s not a very appetizing or inspiring image for you, dear reader.

And I felt bad not having gorgeous photos to go with every step of  prep, a la Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate or The Pioneer Woman. In hindsight, I would chide myself and vow to re-create the dish and remember to photograph it to share.

Except I rarely remember to do that, either.

So, my choices were to stop sharing recipes or to share them sans images.

These days, we live our lives surrounded by images; we’re a very visual society. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t always so, and that I still try MANY recipes based on the ingredients, not on a photograph.

So I’m gearing back up to start cranking out a weekly recipe again. If and when I’m on the ball, you’ll get a visual to go along with it. If not, well…trust me: if I share it, it tastes good. Friends don’t give friends bad recipes. So think of my posts like a virtual version of those dog-eared, batter-spattered index cards and clippings of olde.  rhode_island_recipe_box1-540x420
Even if you can’t see what it looks like, it’s still worth a try if you like the ingredients. Stay tuned:  Friday’s recipe is a new cool creamy dessert concoction I whipped up a couple weeks ago.

Happy Monday,

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It’s been kinda hectic at the new/old homestead.  (It’s hard to believe we’ve been here two years, but we have!)

Almost immediately after Swimmer Girl’s graduation, Mr. Official decided we needed a sprinkler system for my plants, so the past few okay several weekends have been devoted to various phases of this project: trenching, assembling, covering, testing, tweaking, sodding, mulching….you get the picture. In addition, I’ve managed to lug home something like 25 new trees and shrubs to plant, in addition to not-counting-not-telling how many hostas and other perennials.  Garden beds are like church pews: there’s always room for more if everyone will just squeeze together a little.

Our fourth All-Summer Bible Vacation series kicked off the first Sunday in June and it looks like we’re going to have another fabulous summer of arts, crafts, games, stories, singing and silliness that goes with kids and summers.

Last week, Swimmer Girl had her mandatory college orientation, and so did her mama. Two days of being reassured that our little fledglings are ready to fly the coop was a bit much, but it seems my generation’s parenting style is way more “hands-on” than our parents’ was. And that’s the polite term for our hovering.

At any rate, we can now check that activity off our summer to-do list, which also means we’ve started the countdown clock to moving date.  Just six short weeks to finish this particular chapter in our parent/child story. And make sure she has all the necessities and niceties that an apartment-style dorm needs. It’s so beyond the old-school new bedspread, lamp and the towels-that-you-don’t-care-if-they-come-back-or-not. We’re talking about outfitting a four bedroom, two bath apartment with a full kitchen and living room. It should be interesting to see what four girls can do to decorate their little corner of the campus.

I’ve updated our “What’s for dinner” in the sidebar, and if any of the new-fangled recipes work out, I’ll post them later this week, as I try to get back in the routine of actual cooking (what???  really???) and cleaning.

Happy Monday!

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Forget the Ides of March and all that.  Sorry Julius Caesar, but that was so last week.

It is the final week of March and the first full week of spring, according to the calendar. But the weather says otherwise. In fact, as I write this, it is snowing. Yes, snowing.


In. The. South.


It is not expected to stick or accumulate, and we should start a slow ascent into warmer temperatures as the week wears on…at least that’s what the weather men and women are promising.  One can only hope, because my Easter dress is sleeveless and my shoes are strappy, and I have no intentions of wearing a jacket.  So have a heart, Mother Nature.

It is definitely March Madness around here.  Every night the sound of rubber soles running, stopping, spinning and jumping on oak flooring reverberates throughout our home, thanks to high-def televisions in practically every room. It matters not that we have no dog in this year’s hunt…Smokey is on hiatus and resting up for fall football. We will watch teams we have never heard of play all evening long, until the Sweet Sixteen becomes four and four becomes one NCAA champ.  Then we can resume regularly scheduled programming. (Okay, I confess: I sneak off to a corner of the house and watch Dallas on Monday nights. And Duck Dynasty on Wednesdays. But otherwise, I’m all-in for whoever’s playing next.)

There is a glimmer of silver lining to this unseasonably cold weather:  I have a good reason to try my hand at one last chicken pot pie for the season (new recipe, new hopes), and a pot of Cincinnati-style chili and beans over spaghetti.  The crockpot will get a workout with a brisket that will be turned into hash and a new slow-cooked barbeque chicken with sweet potato cornbread on the side.  Then maybe…just maybe, the weather will warm and we can begin welcoming spring with grilled foods and cool salads.

Oh and one last thing…March Madness can also explain away a recent shopping spree  through Macy’s online store.  Right?  As long as the new Fiesta bowls arrive while it is still March, that’s my defense and I’m sticking to it.

Happy Monday,

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I stumbled over this recipe several years ago in my beloved Southern Living magazine.

Initially, I was skeptical:  barbeque….chili?  But I gave it a whirl and I’m glad I did.  While I typically like to make my own pulled pork, in a pinch, I admit I’ve snagged a tub of pulled pork (preferably plain or  vinegar-sauce) from a local BBQ joint or even the grocer’s refrigerator section.

I’ve adapted the original recipe slightly and cut it in half, which is still enough to feed 4.  It’s fast, easy and makes an quick and tasty meat topping for dinner baked potatoes.  One word of warning:  the spice mix makes enough for 3-4 recipes, so cut it down or plan to store the remainder for future use.

Barbeque Chili


1 pound pulled pork (plain or preferably with a vinegar sauce; if it comes with a tomato-based sauce, scale back the tomato sauce and barbeque sauce to taste)
1 can diced tomatoes with green peppers, celery and onion
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 to 3/4  cup barbeque sauce (your choice, but I like something sweet with a bit of kick….like Sticky Fingers‘ Memphis Original)
1/4 cup chili seasoning mix (recipe follows)

Stir together all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (a 3-quart works well).  Over medium-high heat bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over baked potatoes, or place on a bed of cheese grits, spaghetti noodles, or serve as a bowl of soup with all your favorite toppings: Fritos, sour cream, shredded cheese, diced onions, jalapenos, etc.

Recipe can be doubled and reheats well.

Versatile Chili Seasoning Mix:
3/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons seasoned salt (Lawry’s Original or Penzy’s works well)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried minced garlic

Stir together and store in an airtight canister for up to four months at room temperature.
Happy cooking,

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Falling back into single-tasking.

I thought summer was crazy-busy, but October took the grand prize for topsy-turvy scheduling, multi-tasking , living out of a suitcase and having precious little time to just breathe.  I haven’t been pulled in that many directions since my stint in the corporate world.  if I had any rose-colored aspirations of returning to those glory days, I’m now reminded why I gave up that life years ago.

I could trot out the old metaphor about how life is like a river and sometimes it’s a slow-moving lazy river and other times you’re frantically trying to navigate the rapids and stay upright. But I won’t.

Instead I will just say that for today, I’m committing myself to a slow and steady pace.  Sometime today, in between work tasks, I’m going to get in an hour of workout time and tidy up the house and then fix an honest-to-goodness dinner for my family.

But not all at once.

One. task. at. a. time.  Forget multi-tasking:  I want to single-task my way through this day, pretty please.

And tomorrow I hope to repeat the process, with one twist:  I will be casting my vote for the next president along with the other stragglers who failed to take advantage of early voting.

And maybe – just maybe – I will find by Friday that this week wasn’t as frenetic and frantic as the past several weeks have been.

We’ll see.

Happy Monday,

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