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Dinner Menu: Spicy Potato Soup and Gooey Chocolate Treat

Spicy Potato Soup_Snap2Well, in parts of the Front Range there was 10 inches of snow. Here…rain. Bixby was disappointed but I was not. Still cold enough to keep the soups going.

I rifled through my files and decided on another soup for the dinner menu this week:

When the cold weather hits, it is great to hunker down with some hot soup, buttery biscuits and finish with some melt-in-your-mouth cake warm from the oven. This is my go-to potato soup, over the traditional cream of potato soup; I like the spiciness and the sautéed onions add a deep, rich flavor. The garlic biscuits are a nice complement to the soup. I was going to find a healthy dessert for tonight, but then thought to heck with it, it’s cold and we need chocolate.  Rich, gooey, chocolaty goodness.

JeffW's awesome biscuit photo. So beautiful I wouldn't even try to compete with my own.

JeffW’s awesome biscuit photo.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Potato Soup
  2. Garlic Biscuits
  3. Salad
  4. Mocha Cake

Spicy Potato Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage, browned and drained
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, well scrubbed, unpeeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack


Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, garlic, broth, & potatoes. Mix milk & flour, add. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If it’s too thick, add water. With a potato masher, slightly mash a few of the potatoes. Serve with cheese to garnish.

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Shopping list:

  • Salad fixin’s
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes (russets work best)
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Coffee or espresso to make 1 strong cup

Also: flour, sugar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, baking powder, oil, vanilla

Originally posted on February 2011


Snow Is Gonna Fly So It’s a Cream of Chicken Soup Night

Cream of Chicken Soup2

They are predicting a quick hitting snow storm for tonight and tomorrow with some locations having blizzard-like conditions. Seemed like a good time to make a batch of soup.

Because I have a vita-mix,  most of the soups I make start with a thick vegetable broth. It gives a great depth of flavor. It’s also chocked full of nutrients and anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t eat enough vegetables, so I do what I can to up my daily veggies. But you may not want to go to that trouble, so you can substitute 4 cups of chicken broth for the vegetable broth in the recipe below.

Cream of Chicken Soup


  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves), rough chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, rough chopped (or frozen sliced)
  • 1 cup cut green beans (I use frozen)
  • 4 cups of water


  • 2 skinless chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless, doesn’t matter it will be shredded)


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk


  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

small saucepan, dutch oven or large saucepan, blender

Stock: In the blender, add rough chopped carrots, celery and green beans, spices, 2 cups of water and blend until smooth. Add to dutch oven or saucepan.

Add chicken breasts and 2 additional cups of water to the saucepan. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Add diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the liquid and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in the saucepan, add onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes or more. Turn the heat up to medium-high, slowly stir in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. The easiest way to do this is to use two forks and pull across the grain of the meat in different directions. You can then use your fingers to break apart any large pieces.

Once the vegetables are tender crisp, whisk in the white sauce and then stir in the chicken. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.

Makes about 6 cups.


Friday Recipe Exchange: Brought To You By Butter

Mmm, Dinner FinalTonight friends are coming over for dinner, so this will be a modified recipe exchange featuring the recipes from tonight’s menu. When I was putting together the shopping list I realized butter was making an appearance in a big way. I usually go through about a pound of butter every two or more months. I cook mostly with olive oil and unless I’m baking sweets the butter languishes in the freezer. Tonight I anticipate going through almost three-quarters of a pound. No one said it was going to be a low-cal night.

Skillet Cookies

As promised, here is a photo of the cute little skillet cookies. I had to make a test batch for cooking times. Sometimes the trickiest part of a dinner party is timing everything out. They are going to be warm from the oven for cookie sundaes. It’s a good thing I tested – needed to double the amount of cookie dough per pan and additional baking time.

Cookie sundae

I think the sundaes will be a hit. I’m not gonna lie, the test sundae was yummy.

Pictured at the top of the post is fairly close to the rest of what I am planning tonight.  Here are the recipes:

Buttered Potato Pie – click here (and there is an entire menu, recipes and shopping list at that link)

Roasted Asparagus (still debating on adding the cheese or not) – click here.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookiesclick here

The appetizer is going to be fresh baked bread with a variety of dips, including roasted garlic, which is in the oven right now and making the house smell delicious, and there will be a side salad.

If you’ve been around a while, you’ll notice these are recipes I’ve made on several other occasions. I wanted tonight to be pretty casual, so items I’m very familiar with and can make without ever consulting the recipes, means I can spend more time with friends and less time stressing about presentation. Also, each recipe is a favorite of one person or another, so added bonus.

Ok, you’re on your own tonight. What’s on the menu? Are you prepared for the Halloween onslaught? I dread the leftover candy, how about you?

I almost forgot, there was a Bixby update this week for the pet lovers.

Finally, here is the main dish of the evening. It’s usually served over buttered noodles, but the potatoes are a favorite and worked well the last time I paired them with the chicken, so I didn’t hesitate to do it again. Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules.

Tonight’s feature recipe:

Chicken Piccata

  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, sliced into very thin slices*
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh snipped parsley
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

bowl, skillet

Combine breadcrumbs, basil, zest, and pepper in bowl. Mix ½ tbsp oil and garlic together. Coat both sides of chicken with oil/garlic and dredge in breadcrumbs. Over medium-high heat 1 tbsp ea. of butter and oil in skillet, add chicken and cook 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken – keep warm – add lemon slices to pan, sauté 30 seconds, add water, parsley and juice, boil for 1 minute, spoon over chicken.

*Scrub well before slicing.

Just for fun, JeffreyW has a bit more traditional take on this recipe here.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, stay safe and don’t let the goblins get you – TaMara





Mmm… Steak

DSC_0987 (1600x1060)

Rosemary Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

DSC_0701 (1600x1060)

I saw these potatoes on a new food show on TV and they were pretty good looking, better than these.  He used a deep fryer to finish his off and I went with the oven for mine.  Start by boiling/steaming  large Russet potatoes – put them in a pot and add enough water to half cover them, bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover the pot and finish them in a 400 oven for about an hour.  When they cool a little break them up into pieces, add salt, and douse them with olive oil on a baking tray.  Toss on a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and roast them in the hot oven until they brown sufficiently.  Toss the roasted potatoes with grated Parmesan and serve .DSC_0700 (1600x1060)I’ve been seeing people using basil butter here and there for a while now so I decided to give it a try.  I used a good handful of basil leaves, a couple cloves of garlic, a squirt of lemon juice and the zest of a lemon along with a little sugar.  Chop those up and run them in a food processor until they are are a fine paste, then add butter and spin that until everything combines.  Roll the soft butter mixture into a tube in some plastic wrap and then refrigerate to make handling it easier.  It’s pretty good on steak.

Pasta Pr0n – Breaded Chicken Cutlets with Spaghetti and Broccoli

DSC_0120 (1600x1060)Pasta and veggie tossed in a lemon garlic butter sauce with Parmesan.  Chicken was floured, then dredged in beaten egg and breaded with my famous garlic breadcrumbs.DSC_0123 (1600x1060)

Pasta Pr0n – Penne with Prosciutto and Sliced Sprouts

DSC_0047 (1600x1060)This was very good and really easy to put together.  I saw an off hand comment someone made about having lemon butter pasta with Brussels sprouts the other day and a search turned up a NY Times recipe that looked good.  I went with bacon and prosciutto for this one, and an entire head of garlic.  A couple of tablespoons of butter went into it at the end along with a splash of good olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.DSC_0045 (1600x1060)I followed the “pinch of red pepper flakes” option instead of the pretty red chilies in the recipe photo because I didn’t have any.  Mrs J got one of the pepper flakes on the tip of her tongue after enjoying half of her plate and quit eating, declaring the bottom half to be too hot.  I have to admit, my pepper flakes from the cayennes I dried from last summer’s crop are actually hot, unlike the ones they sell at the Kroger spice aisle.

Holiday Gifts Ideas: Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. :-) I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.



Holiday Gift Ideas: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m busy baking for my annual gift boxes. These won’t be in them, because I”m working on two new cookie recipes I’ve never tried my hand at before. More on that later…

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie

These are pretty and very tasty.  They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or peanuts), chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Sift together salt, soda, flour and cocoa, then add to butter mixture, blending well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack.


Originally posted Nov 2011

Dinner Menu: Oven Baked Chicken and Garlic Baked Potatoes

Oven Baked Chicken

I’ve had this in my files to post for a while, so I thought it would make a good full dinner menu. I had run across two different techniques to improve on oven-baked chicken and decided to combine them to see what would happen. I will not make it any other way going forward.

The first thing that is different, you add the flour to the egg mixture, making a bit of a batter. Dip the chicken in it and coat completely. Hold up and let excess drip off, back into the bowl. Then place the chicken piece into the breadcrumb mixture.


Take a spoon and generously spoon bread mixture over the entire chicken. Using a fork, press the breadcrumbs into the egg wash. Turn it over gently and repeat on the other side. Place on a baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper for ease of clean up).

Baked Chicken Prep

Bake according to directions below. This technique  works well with boneless or bone-in and any meat you would dredge in flour or breadcrumbs. It coats piece evenly, creates a tighter seal and you lose less of the breading. By adding flour to the egg mixture the batter keeps the chicken very most and creates a great, crunchy crust.

On the board tonight:

  1. Oven Fried Chicken
  2. Broccoli
  3. Garlic Baked Potatoes
  4. Sliced Pears

Oven Fried Chicken

  • 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  • 2 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken legs (or two additional thighs)
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Panko
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup water**
  • 1/8 tsp ea. salt & pepper (or to taste)

large mouth bowl, large plate and baking sheet lined with foil or parchment

Wash and pat dry chicken. In large bowl, add water, eggs, flour, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Spread breadcrumbs and panko evenly on large plate. I often use extra seasoning in the breadcrumbs – garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil and oregano, lots of pepper.

Take chicken pieces one at a time and dredge in the egg mixture, coating completely, dredge in bread crumbs until lightly coated on all sides. See technique above. Place on baking sheet. Bake  at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until temp registers 160 degrees. I usually cover for 10 or 15 minutes with foil at the beginning to avoid burning the crust. For even crisper chicken, place a wire baking rack on the baking sheet and cook chicken on that. I don’t have one big enough, so I haven’t tried it.

** add more if needed

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter

  • 4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 to 4 metal skewers


  • 1 or 2 large head of garlic
  •  olive oil
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
  • 4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one). You can cook this while you are prepping the chicken and potatoes, then reduce heat.

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

Shopping List:

  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 2 bone-in thighs, 2 legs (or additional thighs)
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Panko
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large head Broccoli
  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 4 large pears
  • parchment paper (my preference) or foil
  • 2 heads of garlic

Also: rosemary sprigs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and butter





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