Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homemade Cream Of...Soup Mixes

Sarah asked, "Say, have you ever seen or come up with a good recipe to mimic condensed soups, but a much healthier version?" I was going to look for my recipe that I had, but my sweet friend Cranky Grandma beat me to it. She knew the exact thing I was looking for and sent it to me. Isn't she a sweetheart! So Sarah, thanks to Cranky Grandma you get your answer sooner than you might have thought. *grin*

Homemade Cream of… Soup Mix

2 cups powdered milk
3/4 cups cornstarch
1/4 cups chicken, beef, vegetable bouillon granules
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes or 1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil or marjoram, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black or white pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend until mixed. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. This recipe makes 3 cups and is enough for 9 cans of soup.

To substitute for one can of condensed cream soup:
In a 1-quart saucepan or microwave safe bowl, combine 1/3 cup of soup mix
and 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil or microwave on high for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring

This can also be used as a quick fat free gravy, thin to the consistency you prefer.

The variations are endless, use your imagination and experiment with different ingredients. For example, instead of thyme and basil, substitute 1-teaspoon dry mustard and 1 teaspoon dill weed.

You might like to add up to 1/4-teaspoon garlic powder to the dry soup mix.

For another option: add a couple of tablespoons of any dried vegetable flakes to the dry soup mix.

Asparagus Soup--add 1 cup cooked chopped asparagus

Broccoli Soup--add 1 cup of cooked, chopped broccoli

Carrot Soup--add 1 cup of cooked, chopped carrots

Celery Soup--add 1/2 cup sauteed, minced celery

Chicken Soup--add 1/2 to 1 cup cooked, finely diced chicken

Chicken Herb Soup--add 1/2 to 1-cup finely diced chicken plus additional herbs to your taste, parsley, oregano or marjoram

Creamier Cream Soup--add 1 tablespoon of butter to any of the variations

Low Sodium--substitute equivalent amount of low sodium instant bouillon

Mushroom Soup--add 1/2 cup sauteed, finely chopped mushrooms

Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Soup--add 1/2-cup finely chopped mushrooms plus 1 or 2 roasted garlic cloves

Onion Soup--add 1/2 cup of sauteed, chopped onions

Roasted Garlic Soup--add 2 or 3 roasted garlic cloves

Tomato Potato Soup--add 1/2 cup diced cooked potato plus 1/2 cup finely diced and seeded tomato

Tomato Soup--add 1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped and seeded tomato

Potato Soup--add 1 or two tablespoons instant mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes or cooked diced potatoes

Click HERE for printable recipe

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fresh Herb Infused Olive Oil

Around CHRISTmas time you can almost always find those pretty gift bottles of cooking oils that have rosemary sprigs and other herbs immersed in them. Although they do make nice gifts, the price can get quite expensive. So instead of buying them, why not make it.

Here's an easy basil, rosemary infused olive oil that not only taste good, but is so inexpensive to make. The measurements of the oil and herbs is dependent upon your taste and the size container you are using to store the oil in.

Basil, Oregano Infused Olive Oil
olive oil (amount needed will depend on the size of the bottle you will be using to store it in)
fresh basil leaves
fresh rosemary sprigs

Pour desired amount of olive oil into a saucepan. Add in rough chopped basil and whole sprigs of rosemary. (You will want the basil in large pieces as to avoid small bits in the oil when cooking.)

Heat oil over low heat for a few minutes. You are looking for a light stream of small bubbles, however you DO NOT want to let it come to a BOIL. This will turn your oil and create a petroleum taste to it.

Immediately remove saucepan from heat and cover with a lid. Allow herbs to steep into the oil. Depending upon the flavor intensity you desire, this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so.

Once oil has infused to your taste, using a funnel pour oil into container of your choice. For aesthetics, it is always nice to use a glass decanter or such so the herbs can be seen in the oil.

Click HERE for printable recipe


Conny asked if I could share some of my uses for stevia. I admit this is my first year to grow it so I am still learning myself to use the fresh leaves...but here is some information I have on how to use it.

Stevia is NOT to be considered a straight substitute for sugar, however. It doesn't dissolve in water like sugar so no good for meringues etc, and in things like jams it doesn't 'jell' or turn into toffee. It's more of a 'flavour additive' that gives sweetness.

It can be added to baked goods (cakes etc) for sweetness, but your standard recipes won't taste quite the same.

Here's how to use it. Remember that the sweetness level is different, depending on variables such as when it's harvested, where it's grown, climate and soil conditions etc.

Using dried, powdered leaves as a substitute for sugar: One tablespoon of stevia or less is equivalent to about 1 cup sugar. A liquid sweetener is made by pouring 1 liter boiling water over 1 Tblsp. dried leaves & allowing it to steep. Refrigerate and use within a few days, or freeze for later use.

To make a syrup: Place 4 tsp. dried powdered leaves in a saucepan with 2 cups water, simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

An infusion of fresh or dried leaves can be drunk as a beverage, hot or cold, or added to other herbs as a sweetener. If using fresh leaves to replace dried quantities listed above, multiply the amount 5 times.

Approximately 6 large leaves chopped finely is a substitute for 1/2 cup of sugar for baking or in cooked recipes. 1 teaspoon of ground stevia is equal to 1 cup of sugar. 2 drops of liquid essence is equal to 1 teaspoon sugar. (These measurements are from the website. I would test them for your own desired sweetness in the drink or food you are using it in.)

Here is how I made mine yesterday afternoon that I will use in my tea.

Roughly chop your stevia leaves as to release oils. Place leaves into a medium saucepan of water.

Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and allow to steep until cooled.

nce cooled, pour stevia water into a container and place in the icebox to continue steeping. Allow to steep for at least 12 hours or overnight.

When ready to use, strain leaves from sweet water and use in place of regular sugar to sweeten your tea.

Click HERE for printable recipe

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sage Butter Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Tonight's dinner inspiration obviously came straight from the garden. I hope you will try this, because it was fantastic!

Sage Butter Stuffed Chicken Breasts

For the sage butter:
12 fresh sage leaves
1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp grainy horseradish mustard
salt & pepper

For the stuffed chicken:
2 chicken breasts
4 slices of Canadian bacon sliced lunch meat
1/2 tsp olive oil

For the sauce:
4-½ oz chicken stock
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
5 small fresh sage leaves
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 340* F.

To make the sage butter begin by finely chopping the sage leaves.

Place the butter in a bowl, add the chopped sage leaves and mustard. Season to taste, with salt and black pepper. Mix well. Set aside.

Moving on to your chicken; using a sharp knife, slice into each chicken breast to form a "pocket."

Place two slices of Canadian bacon onto your cutting board.

Lay the chicken breast atop the lunch meat slices. Into each pocket, place 1/4th of the butter mixture then fold pocket back over to close in the butter. You should have half the butter mixture remaining. Set the remaining butter aside for now. Wrap each of the chicken breasts in the slices and roll to cover. You may need to use a toothpick or skewer to keep meat rolled together. Repeat with the process with the remaining Canadian bacon lunch meat and chicken breast.

Heat oil in a medium size skillet. Add the wrapped chicken breasts to the hot oil.

Cook over a medium heat until the Canadian bacon is lightly golden; about two minutes per side.

Using your tongs, remove chicken from skillet and place into a lightly greased baking dish. Place casserole into preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until juices from chicken run clear & meat is no longer pink.

Once chicken is at least halfway cooked, begin making your sauce. In the same skillet as before, melt remaining butter mixture over med-high heat. Add in garlic, chicken stock and sage leaves. Stir to blend. Let sauce come to just under a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer. Add in salt & pepper to taste.

To serve, plate each chicken breast and top with sauce.

Click HERE for printable recipe

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cracker Candy

I had such a sweet tooth tonight but didn't feel like getting out all the ingredients to make a batch of cookies. I thought about baking a cake but that would take too long for my immediate hunger pang. I looked in the pantry and saw the answer starring me in the face...a box of saltine crackers. Now you may be asking yourself, "how can saltine crackers curb a sweet tooth?" that's very easy when the saltines are turned into candy.

This is a super fast & easy recipe that my hubby just loves. He says they remind him of the Heath toffee bar candy. Won't you join me as I get cooking.
Cracker Candy

1 sleeve saltine crackers
1 c. salted sweet cream butter
1 c. brown sugar; firmly packed
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) bag mini Hershey baking pieces

Preheat oven to 400*.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Or use one of my favorite kitchen tools..the silpat sheet to line your baking sheet. In a single layer, place crackers salted side up.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Over med-high heat melt butter and allow mixture to come to a full rolling boil. Make sure you stir continuously through out this process. Allow mixture to boil for at least 3 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and stir in vanilla.

Carefully pour mixture over the crackers. Using a spatula, smooth mixture even over crackers.

Place crackers in preheated oven and allow to bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately distribute chocolate pieces over crackers. Quickly smooth chocolate over the crackers as it melts. The heat from the butter mixture will melt the chocolate.

Allow crackers to cool slightly, then break into pieces. Layer crackers onto a platter in a single file and place in refrigerator to cool completely before eating.

These were a big hit tonight, as the photo clearly shows.

Click HERE for printable recipe