Recipe- Cheddar Cheese Soup

We ate a ton of soup earlier this year. This was one of our absolute favorites. The original recipe came from Epcot Food and Wine Festival Cookbook. I changed things up a little, but I think it’s just as good as the soup served at Food and Wine.

Here is the version we ate at Epcot in 2010. (along with chicken sausage and polenta from the Canadian booth).


And here’s my version.


1 onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 TB butter
1 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk
1 pound grated cheddar cheese
1 TB hot sauce
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, melt butter on Medium heat. Add celery and onion, cooking until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add flour and stir constantly for 4 minutes. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add milk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Do not let soup get hot enough to boil.

Remove from heat and add in cheese, hot sauce, and W sauce. If soup is too thick (which mine usually is) add more milk.

This soup is fantastic served with fresh bread, like my Cheesy Onion Bread

Green Smoothies

Recently, A Beautiful Mess did a week of green smoothie recipes. I was intrigued because I wasn’t sure what exactly green smoothies were. After a little research, I discovered that they were just regular smoothies with some green stuff added in, like spinach or kale. Ohhhh, right. My sister has been raving about those for forever. So I thought I’d give them a try for a few days.

I’ll be up front. I don’t super love smoothies. They’re ok, but I don’t want to drink my calories. A big reason why I gave up soda a few months ago. And I really love whole fruit. Why mess it up by liquifying it?

But the more  looked into it, the more interesting green smoothies looked. So I decided to try it, using ingredients I already had in the house. Like those frozen mangoes that I don’t remember buying.

Here are a few that I tried last week. Everything is measured as 1 cup, unless otherwise noted.


Spinach + Frozen mixed fruit (strawberries, peaches, grapes, pineapple) + 1 banana + milk


Spinach + frozen mango + strawberries + banana + milk


Spinach + Mixed frozen fruit + banana + 1 orange, juiced + ice + splash of water


Spinach + whole peeled orange + strawberries + frozen mixed fruit + splash water


Spinach + apple (cored, peel on) + banana + celery stalk + ice + water

Some thoughts.

I actually liked them all! Some better than others.

I was running low on milk towards the end of the week so I switched to water. Both worked out fine and I couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Towards the end of the week I stopped really measuring, just throwing in a handful of spinach or fruit.

The only one I didn’t really love was the mango, and I’m going to try adding lime and mint next time I use it. I still have a ton of mint from the garden so I can use that.

I really like adding oranges into my smoothies. I juiced it the first time, but the second one I just peeled and plopped the sections in. Yum! I love lots of pulp, but if you don’t, you can juice your oranges and it’s still great.

I found that if I use bananas, I can’t taste the spinach at all. But if I don’t it has a slight grassy taste. I don’t mind it, but something to keep in mind. For me, bananas seem to disguise the spinach taste the most.

I really like the idea of adding more veggies into my smoothies, but Jason is not on board with the celery idea. I liked it. Made me want to make a bloody Mary. I’d like to try carrots sometime.

My favorite time to make a smoothie was before or after working out. Maybe it’s mental, but it makes me feel healthier. I’d drink mine, then give Jason the other half when he got home from work.

The best way to store a smoothie without having it separate is to store it in the fridge in an insulated cup or thermos. If you put it in a glass, it will separate and you’ll have to stir it. It’s still good, but smoothies in layers turn me off for some reason.

Smoothies will never ever be a meal replacement for me. I don’t like yogurt or protein powder in my smoothies, so they just don’t fill me up. Great for snacks though.

You can clean your blender between making smoothies my squirting a little dishwashing liquid in and filling it up about halfway with warm water. Be sure to cover your blender well. Then pulse it a couple of times and rinse.

So I think I like smoothies after all. Who knew? I don’t want them every day, but they’re a nice addition.

Chicken noodle soup

This is my favorite soup. It’s one of the very first recipes I ever made up on my own, basing it on the chicken and rice soup at Demo’s, my very favorite restaurant in Nashville. It’s pretty different than theirs, most notably with noodles instead of rice. The good thing about this recipe is that it’s very adaptable. You can use rice if you prefer, just adjust the cooing time since rice takes longer to cook than noodles. This is the “quick” version where I use caned chicken instead of fresh, but you can absolutely use chicken that you’ve cooked yourself. It’s great when made with leftover Slow Cooker Chicken as well.

1 TB oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped or shredded carrot
1 cup mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cartons chicken broth (48 oz. each)
2 cups chicken, cooked and cut into small pieces (I usually use canned chicken)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (I like mine garlicky, so you can skip this f you’re not a big garlic fan)
1 tsp. dried parsley, or 1 TB fresh, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bag egg noodles (I use no yolks)

Heat oil in a large pot. Sauté onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic over medium heat until veggies are soft. Add broth to veggies in the pot. Add chicken and spices and let broth come to a boil. Add noodles and cook until noodles are soft, about 8-10 minutes.

This soup is especially good with fresh bread to soak up the broth.

Recipe for Cream Cheese and Green Onion Corn Muffins

Love these, especially with chili. They’re so warm and squishy and cream cheesy.

Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 box cream cheese, cut into small chunks
2 green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir together corn muffin mix, egg, and milk until barely combined. Fold in cream cheese and green onions. Bake according to package directions. Serve warm.

Recipe for Oniontastic Chili

Have I mentioned lately how much I love fall? Only 27 times? Okay here comes 28. I love chili any time, but especially right around this time of year. Here’s one of my favorite chili recipes.

1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can regular or pink kidney beans
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 tbs. dried onion flakes
3 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. groung cumin
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Crumble beef into a large pot and cook until just browned. Add onions and cook until onions are soft and beef is cooked through. Drain.

Return beef to pot and add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and let cook until heated through.

This recipe can also be done in the slow cooker. Cook beef and onions on the stovetop and drain. Add beef and onions to the rest of the ingredients and slow cook on High for 3-4 hours or Low for 5-6 hours.

Like all chills, this one is even better the second day. It goes great with Cream Cheese and Green Onion Corn Muffins, which I’ll post tomorrow.

Recipe for Phyllo Dough Pizza

I’ve been wanting to do something with phyllo for like, ever. Actually since 2004. I remember one of my New Year’s resolutions in 2005 was to make something with phyllo. Clearly I’m fantastic about keeping New Year’s resolutions. So here I am, seven years later just getting around to doing that. But I think it’s my new favorite thing right now. I’ve made these twice in one week so I think we have a winner.

It all started with this post from A Beautiful Mess. I changed things up a bit and came up with these two little cuties.

Jason decided this would be the perfect opportunity to bust out the new camera and take “action shots” of the process.


1 box phyllo dough, thawed using package directions
2 roma tomatoes
couple of pinches dried basil, or fresh would be even better
handfull of shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1 ripe peach
1/2 block of cream cheese
1 TBS brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out your thawed phyllo dough. Cut sheet in half, forming two rectangles. Set aside. Place a damp towel over your dough if you’re a slow chopper to keep it moist. Thinly slice tomatoes and place on first piece of dough.

Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, then add mozzarella on top.

Smear cream cheese on the other rectangle of dough. Slice peach and lay it on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pop them in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bottom is crispy. (The original recipe says you can bake on parchment paper for easy cleanup).


What’s for Dinner? Vol. 4

I don’t think I’m going to keep up with these on a weekly basis, but last week was pretty interesting food wise. I dubbed it International Foods Week. It could have been called Jen Makes A Mess of Everything Week.

The Plan-
Sunday- Thai Chicken Pizza on Phyllo (similar to this)
Monday- Crock Pot Chicken OR Quinoa Burgers
Tuesday- Fish Tacos
Wednesday- Chicken Tikka Marsala (Megan from the Nerd Nest’s recipe)
Thursday- Veggie Samosas (another of Megan’s recipes)
Friday- Shrimp and Grits (to be blogged)
Saturday- Falafel

As I typed that, I realized that almost the whole week revolved around either one of Megan’s recipes, or came from a site that I found via her blog. I was feeling kind of adventurous and wanted to shake things up with some new to us food.

What Actually Happened-
Sunday- Tomato and Mozzarella on Phyllo, Peaches and Cream Phyllo to be blogged
Monday- Thai Chicken Pizza, to be blogged
Tuesday– Quinoa Burgers (fail) and Homemade Pita Bread
Wednesday- Chicken Gyros with leftover Pita
Thursday- Chicken Tikka Marsala
Friday- PB&J Sandwiches
Saturday- IKEA
Other Stuff- Smoothie

I try to have some kind of pizza on Sundays for football. I think I got distracted or lazy or something, so I ended up making things with Phyllo instead. I think it’s my new favorite thing!

Monday, I made Thai Chicken Pizza. This is one of our favorites and I don’t know why I don’t make it more often. Recipe to come.

Tuesday was when things started going downhill. It took three hours for me to make dinner that night and it was a disaster. I started out making homemade pita bread for the first time. I got the recipe here. I broke the cardinal of baking by changing the recipe. The dough felt off to me, but I’ve never made these before so I wasn’t sure exactly how it was supposed to feel. It turned out pretty good, but I want to make it at least one more time before I try to blog it.

Then we got to the part with the Quinoa Burgers. I’ll preface this by saying that I SUCK at frying things. I’ve never been able to fry anything. I burn it or way undercook it every. single. time. My failure at this recipe was user error and not the fault of the recipe itself. They were complete mush when I tried to cook them in the pan, so I tried the oven. That just dried them out. It was an epic inedible fail. So we had pita bread for dinner that night. One nice thing was that Jason sat at the bar and we talked while I was cooking. That’s one of those things we always say we want to do, but we don’t do it very often.


Wednesday was the night of the Apple Keynote. We had both read along with live blogs, but we always want to watch them on the TV. It’s a tradition. So I cooked up some chicken and tzasiki sauce using this recipe. (Also where I got the pita bread recipe). We sort of picked at everything while we watched the Keynote.

Thursday night I made Chicken Tikka Marsala. It could have been another epic fail. No rice or pita and I had to send Jason to the store for cinnamon. I was a bit flustered and added things in the wrong order and amounts, but I was able to correct things and it turned out really good. I will definitely have rice and pita next time because that sauce is Spicy! I think Little Man will like it though. He loves Indian food and spicy stuff, so will file it away for next summer.

I was really needing something to cool my mouth down from the chicken, so I made smoothies. I tossed half a bag of frozen strawberries and a banana in the blender with a cup of ice and a TBS of sugar. Nice and refreshing.

Friday… what the heck happened Friday? Oh yeah, Jason had to work pretty late and didn’t have much for lunch (I kept the leftover tikka for myself). So as soon as he came in he said all he wanted was a PB&J. So that’s what we did.

We had a late lunch at IKEA on Saturday and were too full for anything else. Oh how I love IKEA meatballs and mashed potatoes!

So that was our week of food. We visited many nations in our tummies. 🙂

Next week’s Plan

Sunday- Costco pizza
Monday- Shrimp and Grits (to be blogged)
Wednesday- Veggie Samosas
Thursday- Something from my new rice cooker
Friday- Fish Tacos
Saturday- Crock Pot Chicken

“Recipe” for Chili Cheese Tator Tots

Okay I’m cringing already. I can’t believe I’m actually posting this, especially right after the post about losing weight. It’s seriously kinda embarrassing. But I am a woman of contradictions and hypocrisy.

I use quotes for this one because I don’t really consider things to be recipes if the only involve opening some cans and bags. I guess I think for it to qualify as a recipe, it needs to have spices or require special equipment or something.

There are two reasons I’m sharing this “recipe”. My friend Melissa has been on my mind lately. She’s been going through some stuff, and she’s never far from my thoughts. We’ve been friends since we were seven years old, and we spent a lot of time at each others’ houses growing up. My dad introduced her to the “joy” of Hamburger Helper Stroganoff. And she introduced me to chili cheese fries. (We were obviously from two very health conscious families). I still remember her telling me how she made them using cheese in a can. We got into an argument because I knew of course that cheese comes in bags, not cans. That sounded disgusting to me. Who would put cheese in a can?

Campbell’s, apparently…

So I lost that argument. And now as an adult who knows how to make a cheese sauce from scratch, I still think cheese in a can is kind of gross. But once every couple of years I get a hankering for it that just can’t be quelled. And I always think of Melissa when I think of canned cheese.

The second reason is that this was the first thing I made after we got the new camera. And so it had to be commemorated. So here goes.

Chili Cheese Tator Tots

1 bag frozen tator tots. You can also use fries, but I like the mushiness of the tots.
1 can chili with no beans
1 can black beans
(Or you can use 2 cans of chili with beans, I just used what I had on hand at the time)
1 can condensed cheese soup

Bake tots or fries according to package directions. While they’re cooking, mix together chili and beans. Heat chili and cheese sauce separately. Once everything is hot, layer tots, chili, and cheese in a bowl. This makes a ton. Leftovers are good for breakfast the next morning.

Action shot 🙂

Some thoughts on blogging recipes

When I started this blog, I had three main areas I wanted to focus on- recipes, scrapbooking, and documenting the fun stuff in our lives (for future scrapbook pages and “just because”). I have dipped my toes into other things, but those are still my three main areas of interest for this space.

But I have been severely lacking in recipes lately. I started the “What’s for Dinner” series hoping that would spur me on to blogging more of my recipes. And while I really enjoy those posts, I’m still not blogging recipes like I want to.

I think a lot of that has to do with my skills as a photographer, or lack thereof. I take tons of pictures of food, but I don’t like any of them. And what good is a recipe blog if there aren’t wonderful mouth-watering photos to go along with them?

I guess my question is, what’s more important- good recipes or good photos? I’ve cooked many recipes from books that don’t have photos. But I will rarely try an internet recipe if there isn’t a picture of the recipe.

I will make a confession here. I had a recipe blog on Live Journal once. And it had no pictures whatsoever *gasp*. But I made it for two people, myself and my sister. I wanted to have a place where I could quickly find one of my favorite recipes without having to look through my ridiculous recipe book collection. And I wanted a place where I could give J little tips on cooking because I couldn’t be there for her in person since we lived so far away from each other. Despite not having photos, it was still a very workable little recipe blog for what it was. I still go there occasionally to find a recipe.

So I guess in a long rambling way what I’m trying to say is that I need a new approach to this whole blogging recipes thing. I need to not let my bad photos hold me back from sharing recipes that I love. So from here on out, I’ll still attempt to take good photos, but if they don’t turn out, I’ll put up the recipe sans pictures. And if it’s something I make a lot I can always edit the post down the road. I know this doesn’t matter to anyone but me. But the food I cook is just as much a part of our lives as the places we travel or the layouts I make. It deserves to be here.

Slow Cooker Chicken recipe

I make this recipe quite often, especially when it’s going to be a busy week and I have limited cooking time. It makes enough chicken for several meals. It’s also great to cook a big batch when I need cooked chicken for salads and soups.

4 lbs. chicken breast (I use the big bags of frozen chicken), thawed
1 cup water
2 TBS chicken broth granules
1 TBS dried basil or other herbs
15-20 grinds of fresh pepper

Place thawed chicken in slow cooker.
Bring water to a boil and add broth granules and herbs. Stir to get rid of any lumps.
Pour mixture over chicken and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours.

*My slow cooker runs really hot. If you have an older cooker, it might take longer. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer.