Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Olive Garden Copy

I ate at Olive Garden the other night and ordered the Chicken Gnocchi soup. It was beyond all my expectations!

Generally, after Thanksgiving, I make turkey noodle soup - this year, we weren't home for Thanksgiving, so my kids made me promise to make our traditional Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas and to make our traditional Christmas dinner for New Years - love that my kiddos are as flexible as I am:)

So, we had some left over turkey - and I wanted to eat it in a different way - food I have + food inspiration = pure awesomeness...

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

1 T extra virgin oil
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 qt half and half
1/2 c celery, finely diced
1 onion, diced
1 t minced garlic
24 oz chicken stock
1 c carrots, diced
Turkey or chicken breasts, cooked and diced (you can use a rotisserie chicken)
1 package gnocchi, cooked  (you can find these in gourmet/pasta section of the grocery store - you may want to cut the gnocchi in half if it is large, or purchase the mini size if available) or you can be a super fancy pants and make your own - easiest recipe HERE!! 
1 c of fresh spinach coarsely chopped
1/2 t salt
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t parsley
1/4 t nutmeg

Saute the onion, celery, and garlic over medium heat in the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the onion becomes translucent. Add the flour and make a roux (your veg should be coated in a paste at this point. Let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half. I added 1/2 a quart and mixed it in well before adding the rest. It's better not to "shock" your components together - hot roux + cold (refrigerated half and half) - you do the math. Cook gnocchi according to package directions - or if you are a fancy pants, cook according to those directions.

Into the roux, add in the carrots and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the chicken stock. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasoning; simmer until soup is heated through.  Before serving season to taste by adding additional salt.

*For Christmas dinner, I made Alton Brown's Super-Tasty, No-Fuss, Time-Tested, Totaly Foolproof Bird as that recipe calls for Thyme (an herb/aromatic that pairs beautifully with poultry), I wanted to make sure to add that into the soup - thyme adds another flavor level to the soup. I have no idea if Olive Garden uses thyme in their soup.  

My nearly 10 year old pickiest eater on the planet took one bite and said "I just got a one way ticket to FLAVORTOWN - and I'm lovin' it!" Super delicious, super hearty, great way to use extra turkey or chicken.

Easy Gnocchi

We stuck with my husbands family tradition of going to dinner at the Olive Garden for Christmas Eve. The only time we eat there is that on that night - so I try to be adventurous. 

You can have soup or salad with your entree so I ordered a new menu item, Chicken and Gnocchi soup to try. My 8 year old foodie tried the Zuppa Toscana Soup - also very good!

Anyway, if you can believe it - I had never eaten gnocchi before that night. Ever. I'm pretty sure that is considered a sin in some cultures. 

I've heard of it - and have known for a while what it is - but only because I watch Top Chef:)

I was feeling very much like a fancy pants making these - but they were so easy, I didn't need my fancy pants on at all - hahaha

Easy Gnocchi
1 (1-pound) russet potato

1/2 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 c flour

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Microwave the potato until tender, turning once, about 12 minutes. Cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well. Mash in the salt and pepper. Mix in the egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a wooden paddle with ridges or over the tines of a fork to form grooves in the dough. *a step I skipped bc it is going into soup.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi from the pot and serve (however you are going to use them – in this particular case, I’m making a copy of Olive Garden’s Chicken and Gnocchi soup.

*Adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jen's Chicken Noodle Soup

I've never liked chicken noodle soup. Growing up it meant soup from a can - YUCK! My brother and I flat out refused to eat it - so my Mom was forced to find something else to feed us when we were sick. She found Lipton Soup Secrets Extra Noodle Soup and my brother and I were in heaven. To this day, the only thing we like to eat when we are sick is Lipton Soup Secrets Extra Noodle Soup. We call it "Sick Soup" it makes us feel better. At any given moment, you can open my pantry and find at least 2 boxes of the stuff. My kids love it too.

We ALL got a horrible flu last week - all 6 of us. My 9 year old must've lost 5 lbs - he looked like a skeleton!! Thank goodness for tender mercies as I was the last to get it and the first to start feeling better. Once we determined that it was okay to eat again, my daughter asked me "isn't chicken noodle soup supposed to make you feel better?" Well, yes - but I knew we couldn't stomach that stuff in a can (haha - I'm so funny).

SO - I did a little recipe hunting to get ideas - then took a look at what I had on hand. From my research, it seems like egg noodles are used most often in the soup. We have an egg allergy in our house - so we never have egg noodles here. One problem... we only had spaghetti noodles. Light bulb moment - use the Lipton Soup Secrets Extra Noodle Soup. Man oh man was this soup good. I had 3 servings!! My daughter said "they're right! chicken noodle soup does make you feel better!!" A new favorite was born...

Jen's Chicken Noodle Soup
2 T butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
Carrots, amount and diced to your liking
Celery, amount and diced to your liking
1/2 t chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
3 T flour
48 oz chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 rotisserie chicken - chicken removed from the bone
2 packets of Lipton Soup Secrets Extra Noodle Soup
Dash Tabasco*
Dash Worcestershire sauce*
1/4 c dill*

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, celery and carrots and saute until the celery and onions are soft. The carrots will still have a little bite in them - but don't worry - they'll be perfectly soft when the soup is done. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (1 min). Stir in the flour one tablespoon at a time and stir frequently until it coats the vegetables and makes a paste and looks blonde. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock, making sure there are no lumps. Add the bay leaf, Tabasco, and Worcestershire. Let the soup simmer for 15 min.

Reduce the heat and add the chicken and the noodle packets** Simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve.

*These 3 ingredients sound unusual in a soup - but my hubs puts Tabasco sauce in most soups to add kick. A few weeks ago - I tried it too (only not nearly the amount he uses) and it really adds a depth of flavor when used in moderation - and doesn't add heat. The Wsauce does the same thing - it tastes like you've been slaving over the stove all day. The dill. Dill. I saw it on recipe I read and thought to myself - how weird. So, I didn't add it to the pot - but added a pinch to my bowl to try it out. I really liked it - and so did the 2 daughters that tried it too. So, if you are hesitant about these ingredients, don't be. Add the T & W and try the dill in a small bowl - then decide for yourself!!

**Most of the seasoning is in the bottom of the packet so dump the first one in - then pinch off the bottom third of the second packet - allowing lots of noodles out - but not as much seasoning.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Utah Scones

Wanna remind your kids what an awesome Mom you are?? Make these babies for dinner. They couldn't be easier - just calls for a little planning.

Utah Scones
20 Rhodes bake n' serve White Dinner Rolls (found in the freezer section)
Canola or vegetable oil
Candy thermometer

Thaw the rolls in a 9x13 baking dish per directions on package.

Heat your oil to between 350 and 400 degrees using your candy thermometer. The minute you touch the dough, it will deflate. Don't panic - it's supposed to. Take a piece of dough and stretch it out a bit. Drop it in the oil and watch it closely. You'll know by the color when they are ready to flip - and when they are done. I do 3 scones at a time in my large ceramic stock pot. Drain on paper towels.

Top with these babies: Honey, butter, honey butter, jam, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar...

See! I told you they were easy and man was I the hero in the house today:)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Deviled Eggs

I have revamped my deviled egg recipe!! I usually make these but I had tried a friends deviled eggs a few weeks ago and she told me that she used Miracle Whip. Hmmmm Miracle Whip. Controversial ingredient as far as I'm concerned. My husband grew up with it but prefers mayonnaise - and since mayonnaise may just be my favorite condiment of all time, I was skeptical.

I had a sweet friend, Suzy, come help me prep for a party and I asked her opinion on the matter. She suggested Miracle Whip. So, I compromised and the results were delicious!! When I was done, I asked Suzy to try one and tell me what she thought. She told me that she doesn't like deviled eggs just before putting one in her mouth!! Now even she wants the recipe:) Thanks Suzy!!

Deviled Eggs Remix
12 hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
1/4 c Miracle Whip
1/4 c mayonnaise
2 T fresh chives finely diced
1 - 2 T Grey Poupon
1T vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Remove yolks from boiled eggs. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine until incorporated and smooth. Pipe into the white egg halves and try not to eat all of them (like I nearly did). 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

When I came across this recipe - I couldn't believe that any kind of soup - let alone an amazing one like this with such basic ingredients - could turn out to be so delicious!!

We don't get many chill you to the bone, soup worthy days here in New Mexico - but today was one of them - and man oh man do I love these kind of days.

This is the first time I made this soup and it is an instant favorite. I highly suggest adding all the toppings - so so so delish...

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
30 oz frozen shredded hashbrowns
42 oz chicken stock
14 oz cream of chicken soup
1 yellow onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz cream cheese

Add all the ingredients except cream cheese into a crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. The last hour, add the cream cheese. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheddar (or pepper jack!) cheese and bacon bits! So, so, so wonderful - can't wait to make this again!!

*Another great thing about this soup is that it makes enough to feed 2 families!! I always love meals that are enough to share - someone is always in need of a meal:)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Avocado Salsa

I've never thought about posting this recipe until I made this for a party and a friend asked for the recipe - it's really so basic.
Avocado Salsa
3 Avocados - diced chunky (I use *Wholly Guacamole in a pinch)
3 Tomatoes, diced
1/4 - 1/2 c Red onion, diced
2 diced jalapeƱos (or as many as you like!)
Cilantro, finely minced (about 1/4 a bushel)
1 T Lime juice
1/4 - 1/2 t Garlic powder*

Combine all ingredients. If you substitute *Wholly Guacamole instead of avocado's - DO NOT USE GARLIC.

Let sit in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving - to let the flavors combine.

Best Green Chili Enchiladas Ever

I made these enchiladas tonight for my brood - and for another family and it was a HIT!!! My 7 & 4 year olds hardly spoke - and had seconds. My husband asked me to make these again - even before finishing his plate - and I ate waaay too much of this - in the best way possible.

Hope the family we brought dinner to enjoyed this as much as we did!!

Best Green Chili Enchiladas Ever
2-3 chicken breasts, shredded (rotisserie or canned chicken works too!)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 10 oz. can green enchilada sauce (mild, medium or HOT!)
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 - 1 1/2 cups cooked rice 
Flour Tortillas (5 or 6)
1-2 cups shredded colby & monterey cheese
** This recipe makes enough for 2 9x13 casserole pans - one to freeze or share!!

Cook rice per package directions (or in your rice cooker as I do). Drain and rinse black beans.

Combine chicken, cream cheese (I warm mine up a bit for better mixing) and 1 10oz can of mild green enchilada sauce (Mild green El Paso is my choice as I am serving kids). 

Use 1/2 of the 2nd can of green enchilada sauce to coat the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Grab a tortilla and spoon in the rice, topped with the black beans and then the chicken mixture. Wrap and lay face down in the casserole - on top of the enchilada sauce. You should get 5 or 6 'burritos' per pan. 

Top with the other 1/2 of the green enchilada sauce and then smother with cheese. I used a good 2 cups - as we LOVE cheese - and my kids could use some fat in their diets:)

Cover with aluminum foil (I sprayed mine with PAM before covering it - so the cheese wouldn't stick to the aluminum). Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.

Take the aluminum off and broil for 3 - 5 minutes so that the cheese gets all bubbly and browned a bit on top. DON'T STEP AWAY FROM THE BROILER - rule of thumb.

Serve with Avocado Salsa - yummmm...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Meal Planning 8

Everything is still going great with this meal planning!! I've even saved enough money NOT buying groceries to afford a trip to my favorite home decor store to get some fun Halloween decorations:) YAHOO!

Still sticking to the 5 planned meals per week - it seems to work best for us. 2 weeks ago I had "Enchilada Bake" as one of the planned meals - but never made it - so I'm adding it to this weeks menu.

Baked Pasta with Sausage
Tortilla Soup
Meatballs and Cheesy Garlic bread
Chicken roll-ups (I finally got my sisters recipe - I'll post this week - my kids new fav)
Enchilada Bake

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bacon Ranch Pea Salad

I saw this on Pinterest HERE - and just looking at the picture I was hooked!! My girls gobbled this up. Like - no salad left on their plates - gobbled up. Goo-oo-ood. Peas have never been popular in our house (although veg in general is) peas are not up there on the list - this recipe changes that for my kids.

Bacon Ranch Pea Salad
4 slices bacon*
1 quart water
1 (16 ounce) package frozen green peas
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Boil the peas 1 minute, until just tender, and drain. Cool peas under cold running water.
In a bowl, toss together bacon, peas, onion, Ranch dressing, and Cheddar cheese. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chilled before serving.

*I used Kirkland's crumbled bacon bits in a pinch. And I used cheese cubes instead of shredded b/c that's what I had on hand. 


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