In constant pursuit of coffee and Christ

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bacon Cheddar Broccoli Soup

I love winter. Beautiful ice and snow covered trees, everything looking clean and sparkling, snuggling under layers and layers of blankets, fuzzy socks, seeing your breath while walking through the pure white snow as it crunches under your feet... and soup.

The thing about soup, especially home made, is that you have to be in the right mood for it, or at least I do. The day was clear and crisp, just the right amount of chilly, so we loaded up and headed out to grab the few things missing from my refrigerator and pantry. 

Our local "weather guessers", as my husband so accurately refers to meteorologist, had been pushing the "major winter storm" that was supposed to hit us later that evening. The result? My favorite grocery store was a complete mad house. The only thing that sweetened the trip was the attention my Bear got while wearing his shades, even after we had entered the store I had people coming up to me asking "is this the little boy who was wearing sunglasses? He is so cute!" What should have been an 15 minute shopping trip took us almost 45 minutes, what resulted, however, was well worth the hassle.

Out with my little stud muffin
I hope you and your family enjoy this classic as much as my boys and I did. From the heart of my kitchen to yours.

Bacon Cheddar Broccoli Soup
Makes 8-10 servings

1 Stick unsalted butter
1 Yellow onion, diced/sliced 
(I diced mine so my toddler could better handle the pieces)
4 cloves of garlic, Mashed, not diced
(the cloves should be very loose so that they fall apart during the saute process)
4 Cups half and half
6 Cups chicken stock
1/2 Cup corn starch
1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
4 Bay leaves
3 Large carrots, diced/sliced
(again, I diced for my toddler)
2 Heads broccoli (about 8 cups), chopped 
16 Ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 Pound bacon
Salt and pepper to taste

In large soup pot, place butter, onion, and garlic, on low-medium heat. Stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent. 
Place bacon on cooking sheet, sprinkle with pepper (if desired), and place in cool oven.
Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook until bacon is firm and crispy.
Once desired crispness is achieved, remove from tray onto paper towel to cool. 
Once onion is translucent, slowly stir in chicken stock and half and half, making sure not to allow a boil as this will cause your broth to break. 
Combine corn starch with just enough cool water until mixture is smooth. Add to broth. 
Add bay leaves and nutmeg
Allow broth to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes
Add broccoli and carrots, simmer until vegetables are tender
Break/crush bacon to desired size, add bacon and cheddar to soup, mix well.  
Remove bay leaves
Season to taste

I served this soup in an home made crispy bread bowl.

Cool man in his shades 


Crispy Bread Bowls

I have a confession, I have never been a huge fan of bread bowls. Do I love bread? Yes. Do I enjoy soggy bread? No.

My husband, however, would eat pretty much anything from the center of a loaf of bread. So, as a special treat for him, I decided to serve our bacon cheddar broccoli soup from, you guessed it, a bread bowl.

This recipe is insanely easy, and just as tasty.

Crispy Bread Bowls

1 1/2 C warm water 
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 C all purpose flour
1 C bread flour
1 1/2 Tsp salt
2 1/2 Tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine in the order listed, unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer of your machine. 
Select dough only setting
Let your machine work it's magic

*If you do not have a bread machine
Combine all ingredients in large bowl, mixing until well blended. 
Let rest for 15 minutes, covered, in warm dry place. 
Kneed for 10-15 minutes on lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 30 minutes in warm dry place. Punch dough down and kneed again until dough is smooth and elastic. 
Cover and let rest again for 30 minutes. 
Follow remaining instructions.

Once machine has completed its cycle, punch dough down and remove to lightly floured surface. 
Cut dough in half, working one half into a single loaf and the other half into two round loaves (or four round loaves, however many bowls you need. I only needed two).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Place loaves on pizza stone or on lightly greased baking sheet, cover and let rise until loaves are double in size, about 30 minutes.
Bake until loaves are golden and sound hollow when gently tapped (30-45 minutes)
Remove and let cool on wire rack.
Once completely cool, gently cut, using serrated knife angled towards center of loaf, around the top of your bowl. 
Remove top and hollow out loaf by gently pulling bread from the center. 
Once bowl has been created, place bowls back into oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp the inside.
Remove to plate, fill with soup, replace top (if desired).

*You can also season your bread by adding some Italian seasoning and/or Parmesan cheese (or any other dry ingredient) to dough before working into loaves. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

There comes a point, for me anyways, after the holiday season where my love of pumpkin dwindles... yes, even to the extent that the amazingness of a PSL cannot bring it back to life. So, when I was hit by the baking bug a couple of days ago, and pumpkin actually sounded appealing again, I went straight for an all around crowd-pleaser, the muffin. Not only did this new concoction not disappoint, I have been asked for the recipe by several people (one of the best things about a muffin is how easily they are shared). Even at three days old, the last muffin was as good as the first, not always an accomplished feat for something containing pumpkin and whole wheat.

 From my kitchen to yours, the recipe:

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In large mixing bowl, combine first eleven ingredients and set aside.
Combine egg, vanilla, pumpkin, milk, and oil, add to dry ingredients until just moist.
*Never over mix a muffin!
Fold in oats and raisins
Spoon into greased/lined muffin tins until 3/4 full
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in tin, on wire rack, for 5 minutes then continue cooling, removed from pan, upside down on wire rack.

These muffins really do taste as good as they smell! 

Of course, if you really want to duplicate my recipe, you'll be blasting Frank Sinatra and dancing around the kitchen with your son.