More comfort food

Tonight’s schedules are a little tricky.  Tomato soup and grilled cheese are just the thing.  The tomato soup is easy and everyone can get creative with their grilled cheese.  Samantha and Keith found some Parmesan/cheddar cheese.  I’m going to try that!

Tomato soup

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 large or 4 small shallots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 qt chicken stock (I’m using half homemade and half store bought)
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup cream

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add onions and shallots and cook until soft and golden (10 -12 minutes).  Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Stir in chicken stock, tomatoes and saffron with 1 pinch of salt and a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Fill a smaller pot with water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Add orzo and cook for 7 minutes.  Drain and add to soup along with cream.  Simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Serve hot with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Almond chicken

There used to be a Lebanese restaurant in Baltimore called the Carlyle Club.  They had an almond chicken dish that I loved.  (I think it was called Chicken Mish Mishya – but I could be mistaken.  I could also be completely butchering the spelling of that.)  Anyway, I found a recipe in a book called 660 Curries for a yogurt almond chicken and I was intrigued.  I adjusted it a little bit based on preference and availability of ingredients (I know I could go to HMart and get fresh cardamom pods but I really didn’t have time to do that.)  Since the Carlyle Club probably closed 10 years ago, my memory of the dish has obviously faded (and I know their version did not include spinach.)  This was good and we will repeat it.  One of the things I like about dishes that are based on a marinade is that most of the work is done ahead.  You could make the marinade on Sunday and refrigerate and then assemble the dish on a weeknight.

Yogurt Almond Chicken

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 bag slivered almonds 1/2 cup
  • 1 TB ginger, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 2 for the three of us and cut them in pieces)
  • canola oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bag baby spinach

Make the marinade – combine yogurt, almonds, ginger, garlic and pepper in a small blender.  (Mixture will be grainy because of the almonds.)  Stir in spices.  Coat chicken in marinade and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to overnight.

Heat 2 TB of canola oil in a large skillet.  Add onion and bay leaves and cook stirring until onions are soft – 3 – 4 minutes.  Transfer onions to a bowl and remove bay leaves.

Pour 2 more TB oil into the skillet.  Put chicken pieces in skillet and sear on both sides (about 3 minutes a side).  Pour the rest of the marinade over the chicken and add 1/2 cup water.  Move the chicken around and deglaze pan with water.  Reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring occasionally until chicken is done to 140 degrees.  (You could also use boneless, skinless thighs and they would take a little longer.)  Remove chicken and onions from pan.

Bring sauce to a boil and cook until slightly thickened.  Stir in spinach and cook until just wilted.  Serve with rice and spinach sauce.  The picture isn’t pretty but the finished result was delicious.



Seafood gumbo

This is a wonderful recipe and one of my husband’s favorites.  He made it on Saturday afternoon and it makes a large amount. We’re having leftovers tonight and we have more in the freezer.  (For us it is also a good use of some of our leftover Smithfield ham from Christmas.)

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped peppers (we used 1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green)
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic
  • 1 lb frozen okra
  • 1 lb diced Smithfield or country ham
  • 2 28 oz cans of tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 veal shank (have your butcher cut it into 4 pieces – use two and freeze two for another time)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels
  • 1 pounds claw crabmeat
  • 1 pints oysters with liquor
  • rice
  • File powder

Heat oil in a heavy pot until it is smoking hot.  (My husband does this step and he finds it is easier to make the roux in a smaller heavy pan and then pour it into the stock pot when the roux is finished.  It’s hard to keep whisking reaching down into a deep pot without burning yourself.)  Whisk in flour and stir constantly over high heat until mixture is reddish brown.  Do not burn.  Be patient – it will start to turn color.

When roux is browned, add onions, celery, peppers and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring.

Stir in okra, ham and tomatoes.  Mix well and simmer for about 10 minutes covered.  Add water, veal, seasonings and corn.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove veal shanks and bay leaves.

5 minutes before serving add the crab and the oysters (with the oyster liquor).  Simmer for 5 minutes until oysters begin to curl.  NOTE: You can add additional seafood if you want to serve more people.

Cook rice according to directions.  Serve by putting rice in bowl and spooning gumbo overtop.  Pass file powder.  Here is the picture from Saturday.


Seafood potpie

Seafood potpie

Seafood potpie

I used to dislike potpie.  Mainly because I’m not a big fan of peas and potpies tends to have peas lurking beneath the crust.  I finally decided that it was time to get over my fear of peas and started making potpies.  I started with chicken and then moved on to lobster.  After making the lobster I decided that it would be even better to mix lobster and shrimp.  The great thing about these is that they freeze really well so I made 4 individual ones – two for us to have tonight and two to put in our cleaned out freezer.  (I actually made these and froze them and took them on our ski trip last year.)  Here is what I did – quantities don’t have to be precise.

Seafood Potpie

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks (white only), chopped
  • 2 TB butter
  • 8 – 10 oz cooked lobster
  • 3/4 pound shrimp (I cleaned and deveined the shrimp and then tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 8 minutes and then chopped)
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas (you can use more – I’m not a huge fan of peas)
  • 1/3 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 2 more TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3/4 cup seafood stock
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp thyme


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 TB water

Saute celery, carrots, onion and leek until veggies are tender (about 8 – 10 minutes) and set aside.  Combine with lobster, shrimp, peas and frozen onions in a ceramic baking dish or smaller single serving bowls.

I used the same saute pan to make a cream sauce.  Start by combining flour and butter, then slowly stir in milk and stock, stirring so sauce is smooth.  Add sherry and stir.  Sauce should be thick and smooth.  Add thyme and pour over lobster and veggies.

Combine flour with salt and baking powder in a food processor.  Pulse in butter about 15 pulses.  Add water with the motor running until dough is just combined.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll dough onto a floured work surface and trim to just bigger than your dish.  Brush edges of baking container with egg wash and cover dishes with pastry pressing against the edges.  Make 3 slashes in the pastry and bake at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  NOTE: My chicken potpie crust got too done on top so we’re going to cover the tops for part of the cooking time so they don’t burn.

Two winter favorites

We had a slight deviation in the menu plan this week.  We had taken dinner to my dad on Saturday and he requested beef tenderloin.  We had some leftover so Keith requested Saucy sirloin.  We ended up having that last night to use up the beef and moved the caramelized onion meatball pizza to tonight.  Here are both recipes:

Saucy Sirloin

  • Tenderloin tips or cubed beef, about 1/2 pound
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can whole mushrooms, drained
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 can consomme

Combine flour and dry mustard and toss beef cubes until coated.  Over medium heat, swirl in olive oil and butter and brown beef until just done.  Add garlic and scallions and stir for 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and cook stirring for 2 -3 minutes.  Add wine and scrape brown bits from pan, stirring into sauce.  Add consomme and simmer until ready to serve over rice.  This freezes well and is also a good make ahead meal.

Caramelized onion meatball mushroom pizza

  • 1 thin crust Boboli pizza shell
  • 3 TB tomato sauce
  • 1 package mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 package Aidell’s caramelized onion chicken meatballs thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450.  Top pizza shell with tomato sauce and then pile on mushrooms.  Top with cheese and meatball slices.  Bake on a pizza stone for 10 minutes.  Serve.

Chicken soup for a cold winter night

I usually roast chicken breasts and shred some of the meat to make this soup and use frozen chicken stock.  Since we roasted a chicken on Sunday, we made stock last night (truthfully, Keith did most of the work!) and I’m going to cut out the middle step and use leftover chicken and some of the fresh stock.  You could also buy a rotisserie chicken and shred the meat into the soup.  What a treat for another cold night with another possibility of snow.

Mexican Chicken Soup

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • olive oil
  • 2 chopped yellow onions
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock (I have homemade in the freezer and will use 1 container of store bought to stretch mine)
  • 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seed and chopped fine
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 6 corn tortillas (6 inch size)
  • sliced avocado
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar cheese


  • chopped cilantro
  • tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes or until done.  Let cool.  Remove skin and bones and chop meat.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, heat 3 TBs of olive oil.  Add chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook for 10 – 12 minutes.  Add garlic and stir in with veggies.  Add chicken stock, tomatoes, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cilantro (if desired).  Cut tortillas into strips and add.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add chicken and check seasonings – add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with sliced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips (if desired).

Meals that hold

A friend put a comment on Facebook about meals that work when everyone has a different schedule.  Here are a couple of ideas:

Herbed Quiche

This is my go to recipe for delivering to a friend who has had a baby or suffered a loss.  You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  You can add anything you like (mushrooms, bacon, different cheeses, seafood, etc.) to suit individual taste preferences.

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 1/2 lb Jarlsberg (we use lite Jarlsberg) cheese grated
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
Combine grated cheese with herbs in pie crust.  Blend together milk, half and half and eggs and pour over cheese.
Chicken with ham and cheese and bacon
This was one of our favorite recipes when we were kids.  My mom found it on a bacon package.  It isn’t lo-cal but it does reheat well.
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person, pounded between wax paper until thin
  • 1 slice baked ham per chicken breast
  • 1 slice swiss cheese per chicken breast
  • 2 slices bacon per chicken breast

Place one slice ham and one slice Swiss cheese on each chicken breast.  Roll up and wrap in two slices bacon.  Place in a ceramic baking dish and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.  (turn halfway through so bacon gets crisp on all sides.)  This reheats beautifully and is also good cold.

Depending upon taste preferences chicken breasts can also be stuffed with Fontina cheese and mushrooms, pesto and sundered tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms or any combination of things that your group likes.  These hold well for reheating.


  • lasagna (not just classic but chicken pesto, mushroom, vegetable, seafood, etc. – layer pasta with whatever cheese and proteins your family likes)
  • chicken/eggplant – just blogged this one the other day
  • California casserole (on blog – chicken, mushrooms, almonds and then served with fresh avocado)


  • corn chowder
  • beef stew
  • chili (chicken, beef, veggie, etc.)
  • vegetable soup
  • mexican chicken soup


  • a family pizza based on favorite ingredients
  • individual sized pizza shells where everyone assembles their favorite and makes their own ahead of time to reheat when they get home from work/practice/game, etc.