Monday, January 31, 2011

Brandy Alexander

Today is National Brandy Alexander Day!

Who proclaims these days? I have no idea! But I was checking out the upcoming food holidays yesterday and thought... "What's a Brandy Alexander?"

I knew it was a cocktail. I knew I had some brandy. Maybe I could make one!


Brandy Alexander
1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz creme de cocoa
1 oz half & half

Fill shaker half way with ice. Pour all ingredients into shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

I even made this myself! Typically Jon is the bar master our house. But I read about it, checked to see if we had everything, then just set out to make it!

It's pretty tasty! Happy National Brandy Alexander Day!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Old School Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I love to make fun grilled cheese sandwiches, with different kinds of cheeses, herbs, veggies anything really to make it interesting.

But sometimes I just want an Old School Grilled Cheese Sandwich. For me, that's white bread and white American cheese. Not that orange, processed, individually wrapped American cheese stuff.
Actual American Cheese... from the deli.

That's what I made tonight.


Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 slices white bread
2 or 3 slices real American cheese
butter, room temperature

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread, buttered side down in a skillet over medium heat. Top with cheese slices. Cover with remaining slice of bread, buttered side up. Cook until golden and flip. When golden on both sides, remove from pan and enjoy!

Real cheese

Buttered white bread

One slice, buttered side down and topped with cheese

Cover with remaining slice of bread, buttered side up

Flip when desired level of golden goodness is reached

For me this could be right up until almost burned

When the other side is a golden match, you're done!

Now when I mention the Old School Grilled Cheese Sandwich, most people instantly want a bowl of tomato soup with it. I've never had tomato soup with my grilled cheese. My mom never made it. So tonight I called her to ask her why. She said, back then she really wasn't much of a soup fan. I can remember her making turkey & rice soup after a turkey dinner, but really no other soups from scratch. We did have a selection of Campbell's soups in the cabinet. Most chicken noodle or chicken and stars, that kinda thing.

So I never had tomato soup. It seems like something I would like. I love tomatoes, tomato sauces, ketchup, most anything you can do with tomatoes. But so far, I've never tried a tomato soup that I liked!! And I only started trying tomato soup as a tomato loving adult. So it really is disappointing that I haven't found one that I like.

The Old School Grilled Cheese Sandwiches of my youth were most likely served with chips... on a paper towel!

Anyway... I thought the Old School Grilled Cheese Sandwich was deserving of it's very own post!

So there you have it!!

Old School Grilled Cheese!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Knorr Spinach Dip

This is another one of my very favorite dips!! I remember first making Knorr Spinach Dip more than 10 years ago. I was staying with my friend Debbie and I think we made it for a party. We liked it so much, we made some more and just kept it in the fridge to snack on at will! Which really isn't such a great idea, because it's completely irresistible! It's really easy to eat an entire bowl!

Whenever I make this dip I think of Debbie.


Knorr Spinach Dip
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (16 oz) sour cream
1 C mayonnaise
1 pkg Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
3 green onions, chopped

Combine all ingredients and chill for at least 2 hours. I usually serve this in a hollowed out loaf of round bread, with slices of baguette.

This is what you need.

Stir the mayo and sour cream together.

Add the Knorr Vegetable Soup mix, spinach, water chestnuts and green onions.

Stir that all together & chill at least two hours.

Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl.

I couldn't find a round one, so I used a football shaped Olive Oil Bread.

I like to serve this with sliced baguettes, but you can serve it with crisp veggies or whatever you like!

This is definitely a favorite in my house. Ok... I KNOW Tawny & I love it. I'm not entirely sure about everyone else. But I haven't had any complaints. Honestly, I like to make little sandwiches out out it.

If you're having a tea party, you could totally use this to make little creamy tea sandwiches.

Or, it would be perfect for your Super Bowl Party!

Go Steelers!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

Do you ever plan meals around a small component of the meal?

Yesterday, my pulchritudinous friend, Erin posted on Facebook that she was making Beer Bread. Wait, what? What the heck is pulchritudinous? Well, sometimes I worry that I use the same words over and over, so I consult the thesaurus to mix things up a little and occasionally learn a new word in the process. I was going to call Erin my lovely friend. Which she is, inside and out. But for fun, I decided to peruse other words for lovely. There's quite a selection actually and most of them would have been perfectly acceptable substitutes for lovely. I knew all of them, except pulchritudinous. Ya know how your brain kinda picks out letters, even when jumbled and can come up with the right word? Well, since my brain had never come in contact with the word pulchritudinous, I think it converted it to putrid. Not very flattering, when you're looking for a substitute for lovely. So I had to look it up. It means physically beautiful. Erin is more than that, but I decided to use it today anyway, because maybe some of you don't know what pulchritudinous means, and if you read it somewhere, I wouldn't want you thinking it's putrid, since it's quite the opposite. Ok. English lesson over.

So my lovely (yeah, I went back to lovely, it really does describe her better than pulchritudinous) friend Erin, posted on Facebook that she was making Beer Bread. This was kinda late to mid afternoon and up until that time, it was looking like dinner was going to be FFY (Fend For Yourself) at my house. But Beer Bread wormed its way into my brain and I HAD to make it. But I couldn't just make Beer Bread for dinner, could I? Well, I'd be totally cool just eating it for dinner, but if I'm going to claim I'm making dinner, I should make more than just beer bread right?

So I was trying to decide what would go great with Beer Bread. Someone had mentioned Broccoli Cheese Soup. That sounded kinda good, but it just wasn't clicking. So I was in my car, on my way home trying to think of what to make and Potato Leek Soup popped into my head. That did sound good. But I'd never made it before so I wasn't really sure what goes in it. I decided it couldn't be much more than potatoes, leeks, maybe some chicken stock, a little cream... I'll just wing it and headed to the grocery store.

Making Beer Bread from scratch is wicked easy and wicked delicious. But I had a mix in the cabinet that was a gift that I wanted to use up. So I grabbed the Beer Bread Mix & Penn Brewery St. Nikolaus Bock.


You know when you shake a beer and then open it, it kind of explodes? Well, that didn't happen with the beer. But it DID happen with the Beer Bread Mix!!! I opened it and was the floury mix sprayed all over me and the kitchen! I think it was only a couple tablespoons worth. But what a mess!! I still just added the whole bottle of beer and baked according to the directions and it came out fine. It was tasty. But homemade is definitely the way to go. I thought I already had beer bread on Spryte's Place, but I can't find it anywhere! I know the recipe I've used in the past is from that little minx, Donna over at My Tasty Treasures. Her recipe does not disappoint!

Anyway... I put that into the oven and started on the soup!


Potato Leek Soup
2 leeks, sliced
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 qt chicken stock
1/4 C butter
2 C half & half
salt & pepper
chives (to garnish if desired)

Slice & rinse the leeks very well, they're good at hiding sand! In a stock pot, saute the leeks in the butter. Add grated garlic and cook a minute or two. Add chopped potatoes, chicken stock salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in half & half. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with snipped chives and enjoy!


This is what you need.

Saute those beautiful (pulchritudinous) leeks in butter.

Add grated garlic.

Add chicken stock & potatoes and salt & pepper.

Bring to a boil.

Add half & half & simmer for about 30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Blend with immersion blender until smooth.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with chives and enjoy with a nice thick slice of beer bread!

This was a really tasty and delicious soup!

Bob wasn't interested in trying it, but Jon & I really enjoyed it. I definitely prefer thin soups, but this had a creamy silky texture and a savory delicate flavor. It was the perfect vehicle for my beer bread!

Go Steelers!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stuffed Peppers & Stuffed Pepper Soup

Tawny LOVES Stuffed Peppers. Whenever she has them at school, she always sends me a text message about it. And she loves that Stuffed Pepper Soup will always be on the menu the next day.

I only made them once, a long time ago, in the crockpot. And I used Poblanos instead of Bell Peppers... but I have NO idea what I stuffed them with.

I think the reason I've never really made them is because Jon hates peppers. He loves the smell and even likes the flavor. It's a texture thing with him.


I decided to make Stuffed Peppers. I also planned to make a big enough batch to have leftovers, so I could do a follow-up with Stuffed Pepper Soup!


Stuffed Peppers
6 bell peppers
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 small cans V8
2 (8oz) cans tomato sauce
worcestershire sauce
Italian herbs
tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil
3/4 C long grain white rice
1 1/2 C water

Preheat oven to 350F.
Cook rice in water according to direction on rice package.
While the rice is cooking, slice the tops off of the peppers. Discard stems & seeds. Place peppers into a casserole dish, cut side up, so you have pepper cups. Dice pepper tops and saute in a large skillet with a little olive oil and diced onions and minced garlic. Add ground beef, and continue cooking. Stir in cooked rice. Add a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, one can of V8, one can of tomato sauce, a big pinch of Italian herbs and some salt & pepper to taste. In a separate bowl combine remaining tomato sauce & V8, a big squirt of tomato paste, a big pinch of Italian herbs and some pepper. Spoon meat & rice mixture into bell pepper cups. Pour sauce over filled peppers. Bake at 350F for about an hour. Baste occasionally with sauce.


Preheat the oven and cook the rice according to directions.

Gosh darnit!! This was a perfect chance to use brown rice without my family knowing it and I totally forgot! Actually... Tawny would happily eat brown rice... my non (limited)-veg eaters tend to be my less adventurous eaters in general. Not that brown rice should be considered adventurous... but dealing with picky eaters can definitely be an adventure...

Anyway... preheat oven... cook rice...

Then start with a pile of peppers.

Slice off the tops.

Set the pepper cups aside in your casserole dish.

Chop the pepper tops.

I saved some of these to add to the soup... but diced up about 3/4C to add to the stuffed pepper filling.

Saute the diced peppers, onions and garlic in a large skillet.

When they start to get soft...

Add ground beef.

When that's mostly cooked, add cooked rice.

Then stir in 1 can V8, 1 can tomato sauce, a few good shakes of worcestershire sauce, Italian herbs and salt and pepper.

See how easy it would have been to hide brown rice in there??

Now fill your pepper cups.

Mix up the remains cans of V8 & tomato sauce with a big squirt of tomato paste, a big pinch of Italian herbs, salt & pepper.

Pour the sauce over the peppers and bake for an hour.

That's it!

It doesn't look as pretty sitting all alone like that

It looked happier, all warm and cozy in the dish with it's oven-mates.

However, they were wicked tasty!

Tawny said the ones at school are cooked in more sauce. She loved these, but I think I would prefer the 'more sauce' version! I'm definitely a gravy kinda girl.

I knew only Tawny, Ryan and I would be eating these. I made 6 because I wanted two left over for soup and one for my co-worker Ed.

Ed really liked his pepper too. He made mashed potatoes to go with it! Why didn't I think of that?? I wanted to make them again right away, just to serve them with mashed potatoes and more sauce!!

But Tawny's back at school, so I'd be stuck eating them all myself! Although when Ed returned my containers, he did say I could refill them and bring them back! hehe

Ok... now on to the soup!

I didn't really ask what the soup was like that Tawny enjoys at school. If it was thin or thick... What else might be in it. I just kinda winged it from the leftovers. There are no measurements for this. But I'll give estimations as I go.

So I started with my two Stuffed Peppers that I saved.

Actually... I started with some of the leftover pepper tops. I cut them into strips and sauteed them with some diced onion.

When those were a little soft, I squeezed the filling out of the peppers into the pot and added 6 cups of veggie stock.

Then I sliced my empty pepper cups.

Oh yeah, Tawny did say there was lots of rice in the soup. Since the filling didn't seem like it would make the soup particularly ricey, I added a quarter cup of uncooked rice. (if you happen to have some cooked rice, you could totally add that instead... or maybe you don't like a lot of rice and it's just fine the way it is!)

My soup was pretty thick, kind of more like a chili consistency... so I added some more veggie stock to thin it out a bit.

I also added a palm full of crushed red pepper flakes to give it a little heat.

That's it!

So when she tried it, Tawny said she liked it to be thicker. Since it's soup... I purposely tried to make it thinner than it was at the start. So I would have been ok without adding the extra stock.

This didn't feel like a homemade croutons on top kinda soup... so I just served with no topping, because I couldn't think of anything else. But at school, Tawny enjoys oyster crackers with her thick stuffed pepper soup. Oyster crackers would have been good, if I'd had any!

Even though it was thin and lacking in oyster crackers, she loved that I added the crushed red pepper for heat (hmmm... maybe Pitt Greensburg can take a lesson... hehehe)

While it was cooking, Jon thought it smelled great and wanted to try some. He only has a spoonful; but he enjoyed it! He was surprised that the peppers didn't offend him as much as he expected.

I also brought some soup to work for Ed. He liked that too! He was surprised by the heat, but liked it. It was just mild and not in any way over-powering.

So these two meals were made specifically with Tawny in mind, but I'm sure she won't read this post.

So there ya go!

Stuffed Peppers two ways!

Oh yeah and Go Steelers!!