Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sometimes Simple is Soooo Satisfying!

A few funny things happened in high school Home Ec class...

1.  I was the only person to get injured, it happened on pie day...there was blood.

2.  Our final projects were assigned to us based on what was assessed to be our (then) current culinary aptitude.  A boy named John had to roast a turkey.  I was asked to bake muffins from a box.

3.  Each student had to contribute a "family favorite recipe" to the class for discussion.  I believe mine started with "open a can of..."  My best friend's got published in a local cookbook.

Now, this recipe that "got published," I should warn you would likely not meet Martha Stewart's standards for a gourmet meal, but in my book it's a weeknight wow!  Kylee's mom used to make this all the time, and I always loved it.  It really couldn't be easier.   It's a great starter recipe for anyone who's learning their way around the kitchen, and it tastes so much better than it sounds.  Below is the original recipe, (from Kylee's mom) and I couldn't help myself...the last time I made it, I tweaked it a bit to cut back on the salt, sugar, and preservatives.  I made my own "Catalina" dressing and "Lipton" onion soup mix.  My version is listed under the original.  Try either, or both and see what you think!  I love this dish with rice or mashed potatoes and a vegetable of course.  I made it last week with roasted cauliflower (recipe also below) and some sautéed kale.  Best of all, either recipe takes no time at all, hardly dirties any dishes, and it's colorful and seasonally appropriate!

Kylee's Mom's Cranberry Chicken:

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts (don't worry about how many lbs, just go by how many you are cooking for, and what fits in your pan!)
1 can (16oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 bottle (8oz.) Catalina dressing
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix

What to do...
Heat oven to 350.
Place chicken in a baking dish.
Mix all other ingredients in a bowl.
Pour over chicken.
Bake for 1 hour.

Really...that's it!  My recipe isn't even that much more complicated...In fact the directions are exactly the same...EXACTLY.  But there are different ingredients.  Check it out.

Jen's Cranberry Chicken:

1 package boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup catsup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup grated onion
1 tsp paprika
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp minced dried onion
1/4 tsp celery salt
black pepper to taste.

You be the judge!

Roasted Cauliflower:

1 head of cauliflower, trimmed (you know, flourets cut off...stems thrown away or composted)
About 2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Italian herb mix
S&P to taste

What to do...

Preheat the oven to 450.  Toss the cauliflower with the other ingredients in a roasting pan.  Roast 35 - 40 minutes, or until the cauliflower starts to brown.  By the way, you can roast this at a lower 350, for longer...about 50 minutes to 1 hour, if you want to cook it at the same time as the chicken in the recipe mentioned above!  Just keep an eye on it, and stir it from time to time.  It's done when the it starts to turn a bit brown.

Friday, October 7, 2011

C'est Delicieux!

This may come as a surprise, but where I grew up, French Onion Soup was an exotic treat.  I actually remember the first time, and place that I tried it.  I was probably around 7 or 8 years old and my Grandfather ordered a bowl at a restaurant a few towns away from ours in Quechee, Vermont.  He offered me a bite, and I wanted nothing to do with the brown soup because it contained onions, which at the time, I thought I didn't like.  After some careful persuasion and no doubt bribing, I reluctantly tried a bite of the cheesy, gooey, earthy soup and was hooked.  From that day on, the simple soup has held a special place in my heart. 

It never really occurred to me to try to make French Onion Soup at home until I found a recipe for one made in a slow cooker.  I later read that French Onion Soup was traditionally considered peasant food, or food for laborers, because of its inexpensive ingredients.  How fitting, I thought, since I am trying to watch my wallet these days! 

My dear friend Amy, with whom I've enjoyed many lunches often over, would you believe, French Onion Soup, encouraged me to give it a try. Since she is, to date, not only my biggest blog supporter and fan, but also my go-to-gal for technical support and often inspiration, I figured I'd give it a shot.  She also reminded me that she happens to be representative of the target audience for this blog, and pointed out that as of yet I have not blogged about a single recipe that she would try to make!  Mea culpa.  I am sure that with a little practice and some great recipes in her pocket she will be a terrific cook, so I kinda owe it to her to start providing those recipes!  This one's for you Amy, and if you don't have a Crock Pot yet, I'm buying you one so you can make this's soooo easy!!! 

I had this soup for lunch yesterday, but you could easily pair it with a hearty salad and make a quick and easy weeknight meal.  I found a Fall Delicata Squash Salad  recipe on that would likely be fantastic.  I haven't given it a try, but it sounds heavenly to me. 

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup:


1 lb bag of yellow onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cans (14 oz) or 3 boxes (17oz) beef broth (buy low sodium if you can) (don't worry about using cans versus boxes, just get as close to 50 ounces of broth in total as you can!)

1 French Baguette, sliced about 1 inch thick
Fontina or Gruyere cheese, shredded, about 2 Tbsp for each bowl of soup.  (I like Gruyere, Matt likes be the judge!)

1. Slice the onions.  I like to cut them in half the long way (through the root end) then peel them and cut into half-moon slices, but you don't have to be fancy for this recipe.  TIP:  To avoid the tears while cutting onions, we keep a pair of swimming goggles in our kitchen!!! It sounds insane I know, but if you wear them while you're slicing, you won't cry!!!

2.  Add the onions to the slow cooker and drizzle the olive oil over the top.

3.  Cook the onions on high for about 40 minutes alone in the slow cooker.

4.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, pepper, and about 1/4 cup of the broth together.  Add this mixture to the slow cooker on top of the onions with the remaining boxes or cans of broth.

5.  Mix and walk away!!!  Cook the soup on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.

6.  When you are ready to eat the soup, toast a few pieces of bread under the broiler before serving the soup.

7.  Ladle out the onions and as much broth as you like into an oven safe bowl.  Place the toasted bread on top, and the grated cheese on top of the bread. 

8.  Put the bowl on a cookie sheet so the cheese doesn't bubble over and make a mess in your oven!!!  Broil the whole thing for 5 minutes while watching carefully so the cheese doesn't burn.  Once the cheese is melted, serve and enjoy!!!  Be careful, the bowl will be very hot!!!