It’s soup weather

Few things are better on a cold winter evening than a steaming bowl of soup … so when I saw this recipe for creamy potato soup on Facebook, I knew I had to make a batch.

Crock Pot Cream of Potato Soup | Chicklets in the KitchenI did just that earlier in the week, and I was right: This recipe is a winner. The use of semi-homemade ingredients and the crock pot makes it the perfect quick and easy meal for those “I don’t want to/have time to cook dinner” nights.

And it tastes delicious!

I already shared the recipe on the Chicklets Facebook Page. But in case you didn’t see it there, here it is again.

Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup

  • 1 30-oz. bag of frozen diced hash browns
  • 1 32-oz box of chicken broth
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup (10 oz)
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese (8 oz, not fat free)
  • 3 oz bacon bits 
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Put the potatoes in the crockpot. Add in the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and half of the bacon bits. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender. 

An hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into small cubes. Place the cubes in the crock pot. Mix a few times throughout the hour before serving. Once the cream cheese is completely mixed in, it’s ready to serve. Top with cheddar cheese and some additional bacon bits.

The comments on the FB recipe were … interesting, to say the least. Some commenters loved the recipe as it was (which is how I made it). Others suggested substituting O’Brien potatoes (with onions and peppers mixed in) or using cream of celery soup instead of cream of chicken (I bet that would be fine—as would cream of mushroom).

Then there were the commenters who trashed the recipe because it used processed foods. “OMG. You’re eating a chemical stew!” “Why not dice your own potatoes and use real cream? It doesn’t take that long.” “All that cheese will KILL you.”

Umm…I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time it takes to dice eight cups of potatoes. And pulling the lid off a can of cream-0f-anything soup is a heck of a lot faster than making it yourself. Although if you’re so inclined, you can use this idea from Facebook.

If you ask me, anything homemade has to be better than takeout—even if it does take advantage of prepared ingredients.

What do you think? Is semi-homemade good enough, or would you dice your own potatoes and make a “clean” version?

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Mint-Watermelon Pops

You might have seen me post this recipe on The Chicklets Facebook page late last week.Mint-Watermelon Pops

I promised to put my new popsicle mold to good use by testing it out and reporting back. Well, here’s my report.

Turns out, watermelon-mint is not my favorite flavor combination.

I’m a little surprised. You see so many folks online raving about the watermelon-mint-feta cheese combo that I figured it’d be a natural winner.

Not for me.

The recipe itself couldn’t have been much easier. I halved it right from the start, because it seemed to me that 4 cups of watermelon would make way too much puree for my mold. (I won’t keep y’all in suspense: I was vindicated when it came time to fill the molds.)

I diced the watermelon and mint leaves. Figuring the blender would chop the mint into even smaller pieces, I didn’t chop it too finely. (That may have been a mistake. There were some too-large chunks of mint in my finished popsicles.)

I subbed Splenda for the sugar the recipe calls for. I think should have left it out altogether — the end result was way too sweet for me.

After several hours in the freezer, they were ready to enjoy.

I’ve already eaten two of the four popsicles. They’re OK, but not OMG delicious.

The semi-failure of watermelon-mint pops hasn’t stopped me from dreaming up other fruit-pop combinations, though. I picked up bags of frozen blueberries and cherries during my biweekly shopping trip — and I still have peaches, pineapple and mango in the freezer.

I bet flat-out pureed mangoes would be excellent in popsicle form. Oooh — how about Banana Ice Cream, flavored with cocoa powder and maybe peanut butter?

And in the non-fruit arena, how about root beer mixed with a little milk or cream? Black Cow, anyone? (Those used to be my favorite milkshake at Arby’s.)

I also have my eye on these Red, White and Blueberry Popsicles (using strawberries, not raspberries, because I don’t like raspberry seeds). They’re beautiful to look at … although with my rocket pop mold, they’d look more like an AstroPop than the American flag.

2014-07-06 22.12.47

 

Green Beans and Growing Pains

Y’all have probably noticed we here at Chicklets in the Kitchen have been enduring some growing pains. As we all get busier with our writing careers — and just plain living a good life — the blog has fallen by the wayside.

Well, it’s not dead yet. Our blog might be on life support, but I think the Chicklets will live to blog another day.

That said, we’re open to an infusion of fresh blood. If any of you would like to add your voice to the Chicklets’ kitchen, let me know. Zap an email to arlene.hittle.author@gmail.com.

Now, on to today’s recipe.

It’s summertime, and the eatin’ should be easy. At least that’s how I like it. The quicker, the better. When I’m busy writing, I’d rather not be tied to the stovetop.

And when dinner comes packed with produce, it’s an even bigger win.

This Green Bean Stir-Fry is a winner on all counts. It uses fresh green beans (and new potatoes), and takes less time than dialing Domino’s and waiting for delivery.

Green Bean Stir Fry | Chicklets in the Kitchen

The ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 4-ounce red potato, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
  • Garlic pepper seasoning
  • 1 chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s Spinach Fontina flavor)

Simply heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat. (You could use olive oil or another kind of oil if you like, but the coconut oil gives it a lovely flavor.) Add potato and onion and cook for a couple minutes, until they start to brown. Then add in green beans and a liberal sprinkle of garlic pepper seasoning. When beans are almost cooked to desired doneness, add sliced sausage. (The sausage is already fully cooked, so it just needs to be heated through. I prefer mine slightly browned.)

That’s all there is to it.

Enjoy!

Break out the cranberries

Does your holiday table laden with all the trimmings include cranberry sauce? Or is cranberry jelly persona non grata at family celebrations?

I have to admit, as a kid, I wasn’t much of a fan of the stuff. Mom (or grandma, or some other relative) would dump the can on a plate and slice it.

Was I surprised when I discovered cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be a sickeningly sweet, gelatinous mass. Continue reading

From our kitchen to yours …

Happy Thanksgiving from The Chicklets!

ABOVE: A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. In homes across the country on Thanksgiving Day, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like a caveman. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press, file)

ABOVE: A vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. In homes across the country on Thanksgiving Day, tables will be set to accommodate everyone from vegans and vegetarians to those trying to eat like a caveman. (Matthew Mead/Associated Press, file)

Whether your feast is traditional, vegetarian, low-carb or gluten-free, we hope your day is full of great company and fantastic food.

I, Arlene, will be enjoying chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans that in my Crock Pot while I attend a Thanksgiving Day Jazzercise class. Then I’ll spend the afternoon/evening at the newspaper office, putting Thursday’s news in Friday’s paper.

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

Fall slaw for one

Because I cook for myself—and only myself—almost all of the time, I have trouble with recipes made for a crowd. Giant bowls of potato salad, pasta salad and my favorite Broccoli Crunch Salad are hard for me to polish off before they go bad.

My concerted effort to spend more time in the kitchen this month is paying off with a slew of new recipes to try. The one I’m sharing today, Fall Slaw, is a variation on the Fall Slaw with Asian Pears and Almonds that I found on GreenLiteBites.

 

Fabulous Fall Slaw | Arlene Hittle/Chicklets in the Kitchen Continue reading

Characters gotta eat, right?

Less food. More sex.

That was the gist of the critique from one of the first friends who read my manuscript for BLIND DATE BRIDE. She explained that food is often a metaphor for…well, you know—and I should just get my hero and heroine in bed instead.

Being the kind of gal who loves to read steamy scenes, I took her advice to heart. Continue reading

Flavors of fall

Even though the autumnal equinox doesn’t happen until later this month, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. While I wish it weren’t true, fall is definitely on its way.

Autumn is like the creeping Christmas season, which now starts before Halloween if you ask retailers. It seems to come earlier every year.

How do I know? Pumpkin-flavored things are popping up all over.

First, I found a pumpkin Donut at Dunkin’ Donuts. The next day, Starbucks was touting its Pumpkin Spice Latte — here early, and celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Pumpkin Donut

Pumpkin is undeniably one of the flavors of fall. Another one is apple cider. My family used to get cider from an orchard in Kendallville, Ind., where they pressed it themselves. It was thick and sweet.  So good. You can’t buy that kind of cider in the grocery store.

 What’s your favorite fall flavor?

Guest Chick: Judy Alter

Greetings, Chicklets and Roosters. Arlene here. As I told you last week, I’ve been feeling the pressure of getting ready for my October release, “Diva in the Dugout.”

One of the ways I’ve been preparing is keeping up with all the comings and goings on the Turquoise Morning Press author’s loop. There’s a large and talented group of folks writing great stories — and blogging about them.

When I discovered that my new TMP sister Judy Alter had not one but two blogs where she talked about cooking (and life),  Potluck with Judy and Judy’s Stew, I knew she’d make a great guest chick.

Take it away, Judy! Continue reading

Help! I can’t find my kitchen

I’m about to get real.

Y’all know I write romance, like the rest of the Chicklets. And you celebrated with me when I recently announced my first sale.

Since then, I’ve been riding a whirlwind — edits, dedication and bio and art fact sheet all had to be returned in preparation for my release the week of Oct. 15.

The art sheet task alone required a solid hour of browsing stock photo sites for pictures of sexy ballplayers. (Rough assigment, eh?) And writing a short dedication and bio took nearly as long as writing the whole darn book. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. Continue reading