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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.


Soup Season: Updated Tomato-Spinach Soup

Spinach Tomato Soup

It’s been a rough week – mostly for people around me. I found myself retreating to the kitchen often to cook. Definitely helps clear my head and regroup. Soup season is in full swing as Autumn is fast approaching. We may actually blow off work tomorrow and head up to the mountains to see the colors.

Today I decided to make a big batch of one of my favorite soups. It did not disappoint. I ‘beefed’ it up because I had some ground beef that I needed to use up. I’ll do that again. Yum.

Tomato-Spinach Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup water, as needed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish
  • spinach chiffonade for garnish

blender, saucepan

In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*.  Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices.  Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade.  Makes 4 generous servings.

*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup.  You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.

Original vegetarian recipe is here.


Dinner Menu: Grilled Steak with Coffee Rub and Blueberry Coffeecake

Blueberry Coffee CakeBeen busy with my new motorized standing desk. I haven’t even stepped in the kitchen today. Had to put the desk together, then actually get some work done. I’ll post more about it tomorrow, it’s very cool. Until then, here is one of my most requested recipes:

From August 2013

A friend of mine spent a few months one summer experimenting with coffee rubs. This was one of my favorites. If you need something fun to do with your next grilled steak, this is a recipe to try. And with my love of blueberries, can’t go wrong with a blueberry coffeecake.  Yum.

On the board tonight:

  1. Steak with Coffee Rub
  2. Green Beans w/Bacon & Onion
  3. Baked Potatoes
  4. Blueberry CoffeeCake

Steak with Coffee Rub

  • 3 tbsp chili powder (pure ancho or a blend)
  • 3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
  • 1 ½ tbsp paprika (use a good one)
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak (rib-eye, sirloin, NY strip, etc) in 4 thick pieces

Mix together all spices. Lightly rub each steak with oil and then coat liberally on both sides with coffee rub. Now you can cook in a pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes each side for medium rare. You can broil in the oven, using the second slot down from broiler, for 5 minutes each side, again for rare to medium rare, longer for medium. Or if you’re lucky (sigh) you can grill them outside. Cooking times will vary no matter which style you choose, so watch carefully and you’ll probably have to use a meat thermometer to really judge, because the rub makes it a little harder to eyeball it. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Green Beans w/Bacon & Onions

  • 1 lb fresh or frozen green beans (if fresh, snap off ends and snap into smaller pieces)
  • 2 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Sm. Saucepan, steamer and Skillet

Steam beans until slightly crisp, but tender. While beans are steaming, begin browning bacon until crisp. You can drain most of the bacon drippings, leaving 1 tbsp to lightly coat beans. Add onions. Drain beans and dab with a paper towel. Add to bacon mixture, mixing well, until beans are coated in bacon drippings. Cook on medium-low for 1 to 2 minutes, until onions are heated through.

Blueberry CoffeeCake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cultured buttermilk powder (or 1 cup butter milk  & omit water)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 oz frozen blueberries


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup flour

8×8 baking dish, greased

2 bowls

In bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk and mix well. Make a well in the center add egg, water & oil. Stir quickly until all everything is mixed well, but don’t over mix. Fold in blueberries. Spread batter evenly in baking dish. In bowl, mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of batter. Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Shopping List:

  • 3 tbsp chili powder (pure ancho or a blend)
  • 3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
  • 1 ½ tbsp paprika (a good one)
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen green beans
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 4 green onions
  • 4 tbsp cultured buttermilk powder or 1 cup buttermilk
  • egg
  • 8 oz blueberries

Also: brown sugar, butter, flour, vegetable oil, vanilla, salt, baking powder, sugar, fresh ground pepper



DSC_0734 (1600x1060)I’ve been on a fruit salad kick.  Lots of fresh fruit at the market this time of year.  Grapes are a mainstay, I use both red and green grapes and I like to cut them in half unless they are really tiny.  Seedless grapes are easier but I have spent a lot of time scraping seeds away when those aren’t available.  Also in this one are pears, peaches, kiwis, pineapple, oranges, and bananas.DSC02695 (1600x1200)

Kitteh!  Here’s a 3 month old male.  Mrs J says they named him Diti but she will not swear to the spelling.  D. T.?  DeeTee? Ditty?DSC_0723 (1600x1060)Mmm… cheeseburger.  This one has Swiss cheese and a pile of pickled peppers.DSC_0718 (1600x1060)More of those roasted rosemary Parmesan potatoes.  These are Yukon Golds and they are plated with sesame green beans and a piece of roasted chicken.DSC02699 (1600x1200)Moar Kitteh!  This is Kaitlyn, an 8 week old female with interesting coloration, a tabby/calico look.IMG_20150806_113021225 (1600x1200)That’s Kaitlyn there – right up against the blue watchband on this kitten house staffer.  They call that staffer “the cat whisperer” because she can really get a feral cat calmed down and purring.DSC_0728 (1600x1060)Country ribs and fries.  I have my best luck with these pork “logs” when I braise them, covered, in a low oven, say 225 to 250.  I use broth as the braising liquid, adding bbq sauce at the end and uncovering them to help reduce the sauce.  These were finished on the outside grill but they can be done under a broiler – watch them close so they don’t char.DSC_0653 [1600x1060]Here’s another cheeseburger, this one is garnished with some of those refrigerator pickles.  On the side is one of my favorite summer salads of tomatoes and cucumbers with onions in a vinaigrette.  It’s better the next day but isn’t bad when freshly made like this one.

Recipe Exchange: Best Served Cold

Watermelon salad  final

With July heat in full swing and the dog days of August coming up, I thought cold recipes would be a good idea for tonight’s recipe exchange. It made working in the kitchen much more appealing this week and I managed to try out a couple of new recipes and do some actual blog posting.

To get things started, Monday was house hunting and one of my new summer favorites, Jicama Slaw, surprisingly sweet and creamy, click here.

Tuesday was notes on the kittehs and Key Lime Bars, which I made to satisfy an intense craving for a cold, tart, citrus dessert, read here.

Wednesday I played with making my first Granita, I chose watermelon, but there are many other flavor combinations for this easy, cold treat. Recipe here.

The dinner menu this week was Grilled Chicken Salad and Green Beans in Vinaigrette.  Complete menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

For the pet lovers, there’s a Bixby Diary update.

Well, that was my week, how was yours? When it’s too hot to cook, what’s your go-to for dinner?

For tonight’s featured recipe, I was looking for a fresh salad idea and a friend was travelling through Italy and posted photos of an unusual salad, complete with recipe (in Italian) on Facebook. It looked good, so I decided to try it. Here’s my version.

Watermelon-Cucumber Salad

I chose to use mint because it’s what I had handy, but I’ve seen it with basil or oregano and white wine vinegar instead of limejuice. For a spicier version, try limejuice and Pico de Gallo

  • 4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (if using unwaxed, no need to peel)
  • 2 tbsp limejuice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Pecorino Romano, feta or other similar cheese, cut into small chunks or crumbled

serving bowl

Add watermelon and cucumber to a serving bowl, drizzle with limejuice and oil, add mint leaves, then toss to combine. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, sprinkle with cheese just before serving cold.

That’s it for this week, have a great weekend and try and stay cool – TaMara



Dinner Menu: Chicken Salad and Green Beans in Vinaigrette

DSC_9839 [1024x768]

JeffreyW’s Green Bean Salad

You can prepare all of this a day ahead of time for an easy and tasty picnic. And if it’s a party, they’re easy to double.

On the board tonight:

  1. Marinated Chicken Salad
  2. Sub Rolls
  3. Green Bean Salad
  4. Sliced Peaches

Chicken Salad

Chicken: (Marinate overnight)

  • ¼ cup dill juice
  • 3 tbsp Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts

Mix together ingredients and marinate overnight. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill or broil chicken and cool completely, then cut into small cubes or run through a food processor.


  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded & chopped
  • ¼ cup salad dressing or mayonnaise (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp Dijon or stone ground mustard


In bowl, mix cubed chicken with ingredients, blending well. Serve on sub rolls.  Serves 6 easily

JeffreyW’s Green Bean Salad (pictured above) – recipe here.

Shopping List:

  • Sub rolls (I like the miniature ones myself)
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes
  • white wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • Dill pickles
  • Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • Garlic paste
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 jalapeño
  • Salt & pepper
  • Peaches


Chicken Marsala

20150615_165337 (1600x1060)Mmm… this is so easy to make!  The link is to Emeril’s recipe but there isn’t much variation in the recipes that I’ve found on line.  The easy to yummy ratio is right up there with peanut butter jelly sammiches.  The green beans were steamed and then sauteed in garlic butter and a splash of balsamic vinegar and were very good that way.  I’m no cooking purist, the Zatarain box mix rice was on point for this.20150615_165351 (1600x1060)

Chicken Lo Mein and Garlic Green Beans

DSC_0141 (1600x1060)I like green beans cooked this way:  Parboil the cleaned beans for about 4 or 5 minutes then dump them in an ice bath to quickly stop them cooking.  I drain them and put them aside until right before dinner is due then saute them in oil with garlic and ginger.  I use olive oil with a wee drop of sesame oil for the flavor, and add a dollop of oyster sauce right at the end before plating.  The sesame seeds are a garnish, optional.

For the lo mein dish the chicken marinated in soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and a spoonful of chili garlic paste with some cornstarch.  I make a brown sauce that is pretty much the same as the marinade plus a slug of chicken stock.  To prepare the dish, heat some oil in a wok, add chopped onions and frozen peas, garlic and ginger, and add the chicken with its marinade.  Leave it alone in the hot wok for a minute or two without tossing and it’ll brown nicely.  Add the cooked and drained noodles and stir to combine, add the brown sauce and stir and toss as it thickens.

Chinese Five Spice

DSC_0076 (1600x1060)I was browsing among various recipes for green beans and noticed a call for Chinese five spice in one of them and wondered if I had the ingredients to make my own.  Yes!  –  or at least close enough for my purposes.  I looked over several recipes and they all had the same ingredients with a few variations:  Star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns.  Some used Szechuan peppercorns and others called for the more familiar black peppercorns, one recipe used cassia bark in lieu of the cinnamon, there were differences in the ratios so I just eyeballed mine as I loaded them into my little spice grinder.  I ended up with about a quarter cup of some great smelling stuff.DSC_0077 (1600x1060)Those are the Szechuan peppercorns between the cinnamon sticks.  They have an interesting effect in the mouth, some heat and a numbing sensation on the lips.  Another name for them is prickly ash seed.

After all of that, I used about a teaspoon of the spice powder in the soy sauce marinade of the chicken for the green bean dish pictured above.  That was a simple enough recipe, the most prep went into the sauce: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup chicken stock, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar with a little corn starch to thicken it in the pan.  I steamed the beans for five minutes while the chicken was cooking then added them to the pan with the chicken and then poured in the sauce and cooked until it thickened, a few more minutes.


DSC_5172 (1600x1060)We had this bout of freezing rain and snow a couple of weeks ago, the ice is pretty much off the trees now but the snow lingers.  I have nearly this same photo in several iterations over the years.  There’s something about the solitary bit of color in an otherwise black and white rendering that draws the eye and invites reflection.DSC_9976 (1600x1060)This is the last of the first batch of big buns I baked from the King Arthur recipe a while back.  I froze all but two of them as soon as they cooled down enough to bag in plastic.  What I really wanted to mention is the horseradish cream sauce in the little bowl.  It’s simple to make and very tasty – add some prepared horseradish to a slug of sour cream, squeeze in a dollop of Dijon mustard, and season with salt and pepper.  I never have fresh horseradish so I use the prepared kind but if you make it with fresh you might want to add a splash of vinegar.DSC01611 (1600x1200)A puppeh!  This fine boy is a border collie mix.  He was found wandering about near some heavy machinery at a coal mine.  The miners thought it too dangerous for him so they brought him by the shelter.  The groomer cleaned him up and he was adopted soon afterwards.  He was a staff favorite and a real good boy.DSC_9986 (1600x1060)I saw this recipe for rosemary Parmesan cornbread a while back and filed it away.  I finally remembered to grab a can of creamed corn and the Jiffy mix and here is my result.  Six eggs and a lot of sour cream!DSC_9991 (1600x1060)I made some green beans with smoked turkey just to have something to serve alongside the cornbread.  Mine has a looser crumb than the one photographed for the recipe page.  I could taste the sour cream over the rosemary – not a bad thing but I may cut back on it if I make this again.DSC_9915 (1600x1060)You can make burritos out of anything.  I made these to use up the last little bit of chili I had in the fridge.DSC01764 (1600x1060)Here’s Katie!  DSC_9985 (1600x1060)Moar buns!  I have yet to learn the secret to forming dough into nice buns but I keep at it.  I bet Youtube has someone with good advice…


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