Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

There’s nothing better than a bowl of hot soup on a cold day! This soup is easy to make, and this recipe will feed eight (or two with lots of freezer portions!)

Potato Leek Soup


1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
3 large leeks, finely chopped (including tops)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Step-by-Step Directions (If you don’t like all the extra wording, a condensed, printable version of this recipe can be found here.)

Wash your leeks. This is the single most important step in this recipe. Leeks are dirty. Even clean looking leeks are dirty! Here’s how I do it. First I fill my (clean) sink with water. I cut the roots off the leeks, then put them in the sink. Then I carefully separate every layer. Leeks are in the same family as onions, and they are made up of layers of leaves similar to an onion’s rings. The layers will separate with a bit of prodding. Keep the layers in the sink as you work. You’ll start to see sand-like dirt as you separate the layers. Once you’ve got them all in parts, rub each leaf between your fingers to get rid of any excess sand, which will fall to the bottom of the sink. It seems like a lot of work but it doesn’t take as long as it’s taking you to read this paragraph, and believe me it will be well worth it when your soup isn’t sandy! As you clean the leaves, pile them on a dishtowel or some paper towels to drip.

Chop the leeks. Sometimes it’s easier to bundle the leek layers back together to cut them. No need to be precise, this will all be pulverized later in the blender.

Wash and finely chop the celery.

Now you’re ready for the stove. In a large kettle, melt the butter. Add the chopped leeks and celery, stirring to coat. Cover and cook on low heat for about five minutes. The idea is to allow the vegetables to soften without browning.

While your leeks and celery is softening, wash, peel and dice the potatoes. You can use any variety. I used red potatoes yesterday, but you can also use Yukon Gold or anything you like.

Add the diced potatoes to the kettle, along with the water, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Simmer covered for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft.

Now you need to puree the whole thing. If you’re lucky enough to have an immersion blender (I am not) that is the best way to go. Blend it right in the kettle. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a food processor or a regular blender. Be very careful using a regular blender with hot foods. Don’t end up with a hot soup bath as I did (and my cabinets, my walls, my stove, my salt pot, and my dog). The keys to blending hot foods are: a.) don’t overfill the blender. Half or less is best, even if this means you have to blend in multiple batches. b.) Allow the steam to escape! Remove the center insert in your blender cover and replace with a folded towel. Otherwise the steam will push the lid (and the contents) right out of the blender. Another option is to simply wait til the soup cools. P.S. The dog is fine! 🙂

Once you’ve blended your soup, add the heavy cream. Heat through if necessary. If it seems too thick, you can add some extra chicken broth or water. (I’ve never had to do this!)

A printable (and much more condensed) version of this recipe can be found here.



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If you have a problem getting anyone in your house to eat vegetables, this ought to do the trick. No problems in our house, we just like it!


1 pound bag of frozen broccoli/cauliflower mix, or whatever you like
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, cubed
1 can cream of anything soup
crushed crackers, corn flakes, bread crumbs, or whatever you like


Cook vegetables. In a large bowl, add cream cheese to hot vegetables and stir well to combine as cream cheese melts. When well blended, add soup and mix well. Transfer to baking dish and cover with crushed crackers. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes until hot and bubbly.


  • As usual I used low-fat cream cheese, and low-fat soup.
  • I used cream of broccoli, but any cream soup will work!

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Muffin Gratins

This is a great thing to do with baking potatoes when you’re sick of, well, baked potatoes! The kids will enjoy this one too. Just not the slicing!


2 tablespoons butter (more or less), melted
2 medium baking potatoes
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
shredded cheese


Slice the potatoes very thin, about 1/8″. Easiest to do this with a mandolin slicer if you have one. (If not, it’s a good investment!) Brush the inside of six muffin tins with the melted butter. Place two potato slices in each muffin tin. Season with salt and pepper. Add two more potato slices. Season with garlic powder and onion powder. Add two more potato slices. Add some shredded cheese. Add more potato slices if you have any left. Pour 1 tablespoon of half-and-half into each muffin cup. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 35 minutes. Loosen with a thin knife and pop out of the tins.


  • You can add other spices if you like. I actually think I added some parsley and/or chives.
  • I could have salt/peppered another layer, they needed it.
  • The original recipe called for heavy cream. I used fat-free half-and-half. I’m sure the cream would have made them much richer but they were still delicious even using fat free!
  • I believe I used some parmesan cheese plus some leftover mexican blend. Use anything you happen to have on hand.
  • Mine didn’t really “pop” out of the tins. I had to sort of help them along with a fork. 🙂
  • I used four potatoes and made 12 instead of 6.

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Roasted Anything

Broccoli. Asparagus. Cauliflower. Onions. Potatoes. Zucchini. Squash. Sweet Potatoes. Green Beans. Whatever you like, you can roast. And I bet you’ll like it even better!


Any vegetable or combination of vegetables
Olive or canola oil


Cut your vegetable(s) into similar sized chunks. Place into a large bowl. Add just enough canola oil to moisten. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes (a little bit longer for potatoes and cauliflower, or very large chunks). YUM!

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Parmesan Potato Wedges

The original recipe called for microwaving only, but I prefer the crispness of the oven. Use both. Fast AND crisp! Ask the kids to help, it’s messy and they’ll love it!


1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons onion salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted


In a ziploc bag, add the bread crumbs, parmesan, onion salt and paprika. Set aside. Coat potatoes in flour, then dip in melted butter. Add to bread crumb bag and shake to coat evenly. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Pop into the oven with whatever else you’re cooking, or at 375 degrees for 15-30 minutes.


  • I usually double this recipe. To compensate I increase the microwaving time by 2-4 minutes. Depending on how long you’re planning on leaving them in the oven, you may not even need to add time.
  • I don’t peel the potatoes, we like the skins.
  • If you don’t have onion salt, don’t buy it. Use onion powder instead and then add some salt, between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon or so.

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Fan Potatoes

When you get tired of plain old baked potatoes but don’t have the enthusiasm for double-stuffed, this makes a quick delicious alternative!


4 medium baking potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs OR 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried herbs (like chives, parsley, thyme or whatever you like)
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Wash potatoes. Cut potatoes into thin slices but not all the way through. On your cutting board, place a wooden spoon against the potato while you cut it. This will prevent the knife from going entirely through the potato as you make the thin slices. The slices should be about 1/8 inch thick. Place potatoes into a baking dish, and fan out the slices somewhat. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with herbs. Bake potatoes at 425 degrees for about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheeses. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until cheeses are melted and potatoes are soft inside.


  • Choose potatoes that are fairly equal in size so they cook evenly.
  • If you’re in a hurry, these can be microwaved. Cook on high for 10 minutes without the cheese, let stand for 5 minutes, add cheeses and cook for another 4-6 minutes on high.
  • Most often I use a combo-method … I cook them in the microwave then pop them into the oven for a few extra minutes to brown the cheese and crisp the skins.

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My mom taught me how to make “her” homemade chicken soup. If you  master this, you’ll never buy canned soup again!

I need to write this recipe more like I’m chit chatting with you, because there are more nuances than actual instructions.

First, there aren’t really any measurements. You can make as much or as little as you want. Most times I use my 8 qt. pot, so that’s how I’ll write the recipe. But I’ve also used a 20 qt. stock pot, so you can expand as needed, just use more chicken, carrots and celery. The 8 qt. pot makes us oh, let’s see, maybe 10 bowls of soup. Plenty for a meal, lunch the next day, and some for the freezer!

Next, I’ll tell you my mom’s three “soup secrets”.

1. Soup base. You need to find and buy some soup base. This is not bouillon. It’s different. Most supermarkets sell it in some variety, but you have to look for it. It’s in the same aisle with soups and bouillon, but it’s different. I’ve used many different brands, and that doesn’t seem to matter. But you need to have it in order to make this soup. Here are two pictures. Since you’re making chicken soup with this recipe, you’ll want chicken flavored. (You can also use vegetable flavored for the chicken soup.)

It usually comes in a squat jar, glass or plastic, between 8 and 16 oz. It will last you awhile.

2. You can put any sort of vegetables in your soup, but nothing should come from a can. Everything should be either fresh, or frozen.

3. Regardless of what type of noodles/rice you decide to put into your soup, cook it separately first. Do not add dry pasta and cook it directly in the broth. It will soak up too much broth and change the consistency of your soup. Cook the noodles, THEN add them.

Ok, now that you’ve got all the tips and tricks I know, let’s go!


2 split bone-in chicken breast halves
1 onion
1 bay leaf
soup base
noodles or rice


Place chicken in stock pot and fill to 2/3 with water. As I said, I use my 8-qt. pot so I suppose there are about 5 quarts of water in there. Peel skin from onion and put it into the pot as well (whole). Add bay leaf. Set pot on medium heat, cover, and cook for about two hours. (You’ll notice that everything in this recipe is “about”. You really can’t screw it up if you use a little more, a little less, cook a little longer, a little shorter, it’s all good.) Remove chicken to a plate and set aside to cool. Remove bay leaf and discard. (This is important. Do not leave the bay leaf in the soup. Bay is a very strong spice and can turn the taste of something if it is left in too long. It’s also not edible, so you want to make sure you get it out of there.) Remove onion and discard.

Peel carrots and slice into bite sized chunks (or use baby carrots). I use about a cup or a cup and a half of baby carrots for this sized pot of soup. Cut celery into bite sized pieces, being sure to include some of the leaves and innards of the celery. They hold the most flavor. I use maybe 2 cups of celery in this sized pot. Add carrots and celery to broth. Heat should be on medium at this point.

Now it’s time to add the soup base. Be very very very careful. You need to add and taste, add and taste, add and taste. You can easily ruin an entire pot of soup by adding too much. Start with a heaping tablespoon. Add it to the soup, stir it around, and let it cook for a few minutes so it dissolves and incorporates. Then, taste the broth. If it’s too bland, add another tablespoon. Repeat until you like the taste. If you’re unsure, let the carrots/celery cook in there a little while longer because they too will enhance the flavor. If you decide to include additional vegetables, now’s the time. I don’t.

This should cook for about another hour. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pick it from the bones and cut it into bite sized pieces. Return this to the pot.

Meanwhile, cook your noodles or rice separately, and add to soup when done. I personally cook new pasta every time I serve it, this way I’m not freezing soup with pasta already in it because it tends to absorb a lot of broth and get soggy when you thaw and reheat. But you don’t have to cook new noodles every time. The only rule is NOT to allow them to cook in the broth you just spent so long perfecting. 🙂

When everything’s ready, enjoy!!!

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