Blog Archives

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.


Dinner Menu: Food for a Fall Evening

JeffW sends along some garlic bread. ETA: JeffreyW posted recipe in the comments

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple. Use the soup recipe as a starter and add whatever inspires you to supe it up (hee-hee, see what I did there?). I like the ease of frozen vegetables, but use fresh if you’re so inclined. Squash is a nice addition, put it in when you are simmering the meat, it will need the extra cooking time. Turnips, parsnips, maybe some barley. Go crazy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef Vegetable Soup
  2. Hearty Bread
  3. Pumpkin Apple Butter

Beef Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat, small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp crushed basil
  • ½ tsp dry dill
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp fennel seed (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables

large saucepan

Heat oil in saucepan, add onions and sauté, add beef and brown. Add water, spices and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 20-25 minutes, until beef is tender. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz apple sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves


Add all ingredients to saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook down for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Store in the refrigerator. Serve on bread.

Shopping List:

  • Hearty Bread
  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz applesauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Also: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, bay leaf, rosemary, basil, dry dill, olive oil crushed garlic, fennel seed

Friday Recipe Exchange: Not Afraid to Experiment

Spinach Tomato Soup

What a week we’ve had here. I retreated to the kitchen often, cooking truly reduces my stress and helps me refocus. And since everyone needs to eat, I have a perfect excuse to retreat and regroup.

Cool weather blew in today, signalling the start of soup season, a great time of year. I have quite a few soup recipes and I began the season with one of my favorites, Tomato-Spinach, pictured above and recipe here.

Next up, Pumpkin Bars, because I needed something to share with friends and this recipe makes a lot. Click here for recipe and photos.

JeffreyW went to the Farmer’s Market and made Refrigerator Pickles, there are plenty of great photos and the pickle recipe here. He went on to use the beans he purchased to make Three Bean Salad, here.

And finally, for the pet lovers, some Bixby pictures and a bit of an update.

It’s the last official weekend of summer, how will you usher it out? What’s on your plate for the weekend? We are going to head up to the mountains to take in some color, which is predicted to be a short show this year.

Sausages with Grapes

For tonight’s featured recipe, I decided to experiment with flavors I would have never thought of on my own. Facebook and blog friend Michael F, shared a recipe on Facebook from Italy, in Italian no less, and the photo intrigued me. I let google translate the recipe (which was a hoot) and went about putting my touches into it.

It was so unusual, my most reliable recipe testers politely declined my dinner invite. Totally understandable. But I will tell you I was pleasantly surprised how well this turned out. If you like pork and apples, this has a similar flavor palate. It was also quick and easy to prepare. I’m glad I decided to experiment.

All right, if you’re up for something new and different, here you go, tonight’s featured recipe.

Sausage and Grapes

  • 8 links Italian sausage (I used spicy, but you could use any style sausage you favor)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup green seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used none, didn’t need it)
  • angel hair pasta
  • freshly grated Parmesan


Slice sausage links into four pieces each, add to skillet and fry on medium high for about 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel seeds, cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Add grapes, stir until well mixed, cover and let simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.

You can toss with the sausage mixture, or serve separately. Serve with Parmesan.

The pasta was my addition. When I asked Michael what would be a good side, he suggested eggplant or roasted potatoes. Roasted zucchini spears would probably work well, too.

Here is the original recipe.

That’s if for this week. Have a great weekend. – TaMara



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.


Panera’s Broccoli Cheese Soup

DSC_0785 (1600x1060)I wish I’d gone with the white bowl for this, I really thought there would be more contrast.  This is a copycat recipe, as far as I know, nowhere does it indicate it’s an actual Panera recipe.  I stayed right with the recipe as written except I added an extra handful of shredded Parmesan I had out for the garlic toast.  I can say that it’s a damn good soup, we both gave it two thumbs up.DSC_0788 (1600x1060)I couldn’t resist making a sammich out of the leftovers.

Parmesan Potato Soup with Bacon

DSC_9465 (1600x1060)This turned out pretty well.  The bacon made that a foregone conclusion but the Parmesan was an experiment gone good.  I simmered potato pieces in chicken broth until they were soft and then pureed everything in the pot with an immersion blender.  The bacon crisped up in a separate pan and was added after the blender did its job – save a little for garnishing at the table.  There’s some milk in there to thin it, lots of grated Parmesan and some cheddar I had leftover from burritos.  Seasonings include dried thyme, oregano, fresh ground black pepper and salt.  I used the same microplane grater I grated the Parm with on a little bit of carrot that you can see in the photo if you look hard.DSC_9462 (1600x1060)Since I am  lunatic I took the chance to add a little color to the plate with a healthy slug of my hot sauce.  It was good but I wouldn’t let the lack of it dissuade me from demolishing a future bowl of this soup.


DSC_4986 (1600x1060)Homer has been an outside kitty lately because of his ongoing battle with Toby.  He does come in everyday to spend time but gets ousted if he acts up.  I think he may be mellowing a bit – the cuddle on the sofa with Bitsy was rare enough that I thought a photo was warranted.DSC_9402 (1600x1060)I picked all the remaining jalapenos so Mrs J could take the pot away and dump the old potting soil.  I sliced and froze these.DSC_9390 (1600x1060)A couple of tacos with guac and sour cream and a few of the last peppers.  I think these were ground beef cooked in a mole made from dried ancho peppers.  More of that sauce is on top, covering the lettuce, tomatoes, and cheddar.DSC01113 (1600x1200)Here are those pups from the other day that were smiling for the camera.  Mrs J says they are terrier poodle crosses.DSC01086 (1600x1200)They are really rocking their little doggie sweaters.DSC01106 (1600x1200)I think she said they were eight weeks old and would be released for adoption pretty soon.  I bet they go fast.DSC_9429 (1600x1060)Here’s a sammich I made the other day.  I had a chunk of hot coppa in the freezer that I thawed and sliced thin.  It also has traditional ham, a slice of roast pork, provolone, and various veggies in a vinaigrette made with dijon and balsamic vinegar.DSC_9416 (1600x1060)This looks like spaghetti and meatballs but the meat is just sliced link Italian sausage.  The sauce was from this year’s tomatoes and has a lot of Parmesan in it.  Good stuff.DSC_9431 (1600x1060)It’s been ages since I made bread in my machine.  This loaf really puffed up when it baked, I thought it might raise the lid before it quit growing.  The soup is a basic chicken noodle made with wide egg noodles and various veggies.  I always add too many noodles to the pot.


DSC_9141 (1600x1060)Just a reminder:  You can make a burrito out of nearly anything you can wrap a tortilla around.  We had chicken chili with white beans a few days ago and the little dab of leftovers worked great with the addition of Monterey jack.DSC00571 (1600x1060)I call this a “cuddle” of puppies.  I like how the little guy with the white on his muzzle is framed in this picture.DSC_9146 (1600x1060)Mrs J likes banana bread so much that she buys bananas and lets them ripen just so she can make it.  The one has raisins and pecans.  I found a jar of apple butter on the pantry shelf, applesauce works well as an accompaniment but apple butter just goes it one better.DSC_4902 (1600x1060)Notice the subtle segue from apples to snakes?  LOL  Here’s your random wildlife, a small snake in the grass beside the walk this morning.  I’m not sure what species it is but I would guess it’s a juvenile black rat snake.  The mottled look fades over time.DSC_9158 (1600x1060)We made the last batch of tomatoes into soup and canned 7 quarts.  I amazed myself with a practical application of arithmetic – I knew my canner would hold seven quart jars so I figured how many inches of juice I needed and let the tomatoes reduce at a simmer until it measured the correct depth.  I won’t burden you with the formula lest I make a foolish error but if I remember correctly 7 US quarts is a tad over 5 inches in my 10″ pot, I think I went five and a quarter-ish, making a mark on a wooden spoon.DSC00585 (1600x1060)I never said there wouldn’t be math!  I did say there would be kittehs, though.  They named this one Brock and he was adopted the next day after Mrs J posted this picture on the shelter’s facebook page.DSC_9157 (1600x1060)I’ll close out with a couple of sammiches, here’s a loaded chicken tenders sammy with some potato salad from the local Kroger deli.DSC_9163 (1600x1060)More sauerkraut than pastrami on this reuben.  There wasn’t much pastrami left so I compensated a tad.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Chicken Buttermilk Biscuit Pie

Chicken Biscuit Pie_Snapseed1

They were predicting snow today, it did not show up, but it’s unseasonably cold. SNOW. I am not ready. But it does put me in the mood for cool weather recipes. Soups and tonight’s featured recipe, easy Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie. 

Life has been hectic, I’ve been busy with house hunting, work and of course the puppy, so I’ve kept meals simple. I haven’t linked to it in a while, but I have a bunch of tips for keeping meals quick, easy and full of flavor right here, which may come in handy now that school and activities are back in full swing.

For the dog lovers, Bixby updates are here and here. He’s now 33 34 lbs and so smart, he’s been a breeze to train.

On to the recipes. Soup is what I miss most in summer, so as soon as the temperatures dip, I break out the soup recipes. Here are three for you:

Cream of Chicken Soup (recipe here).

Spicy Black Bean Soup (recipe and full dinner menu here)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (recipe here)

What’s the weather like in corner of the planet? What’s on your plate for the weekend? Hit the comments and share some of your favorite fall recipes.

For tonight’s featured recipe, I brought together some of my favorite comfort foods into one dish. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the chicken mixture to a baking dish and top with biscuits.

Chicken and Biscuits_Snapseed2

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (frozen ok)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen ok)

Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat

In a large bowl, combine the chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sear chicken in pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside in a separate bowl. Add butter to the pan and, when melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock, browned chicken, potatoes, and spices.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are tender…about 25-35 minutes.

While it simmers, prepare Buttermilk Biscuits, below.

Just before adding biscuits, fold peas into chicken mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy, with 6 biscuits around the edge of the pan and the remaining 4 biscuits in the center (if you have a left over biscuit or two, bake on a separate baking sheet). Be sure the biscuits do not touch, so they cook thoroughly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and flaky…14 to 15 minutes. Allow the pot pie to cool briefly before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp powdered buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter to brush on formed biscuits

Mix dry ingredients, make a center hole in the dry ingredients and add in shortening and milk.  Blend together, then knead 10-12 strokes on a floured surface, roll out to ½” thick, cut into 8-10 biscuits.

That’s it for this week. Have great weekend. – TaMara



copyright 2014 What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook: Spring




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 740 other followers