Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

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Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Garden fresh broccoli is everywhere this time of year, and this soup recipe is just right. Too many cheesy broccoli soup recipes are essentially a brick of melted down processed “cheese” food-like substances with a stalk of broccoli waved over the top. Steer clear. Those glumpy orange soups are fat laden and nutritionally weak.

This recipe is chock full of fresh broccoli! It’s flavored with delicious chicken stock and just enough real, melted cheese to keep things interesting. One serving of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup offers 4 grams of fiber and over 200% of your daily need for Vitamin C, all for about 100 calories and very little effort in the kitchen. Enjoy!

broccoli

Broccoli in the Garden

Ingredients (Makes 8 servings, freezes well)

8 cups broccoli, cut small

1 medium onion, cut small

4 cups good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable broth for a vegan option)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or, use your favorite seasoned salt blend)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for the cheddar cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until broccoli is soft.

Step 2) Once the broccoli is soft, remove heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 3) Puree the cooked broccoli mixture with an immersion blender. If the mixture is too thick, add more chicken stock or water (1/2 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Step 4) Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and serve!

Variations

For cheesier soup, add 1 cup of shredded muenster or fontina cheese along with the 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Don’t use mozzarella… it just doesn’t work well in this soup.

For a more savory flavor, add 1/2 cup of cooked, crumbled bacon along with the shredded cheddar cheese. This adds calories, but tastes amazing!

For a pretty presentation, sprinkle the top of each bowl of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup with diced red pepper and one or two seasoned croutons.

 

Kohlrabi Roll-Ups

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One Kohlrabi Roll-Up makes a lovely side dish. Two Kohlrabi Roll-Ups sprinkled with cheese and served with crusty bread makes a delicious vegetarian dinner!

It’s kohlrabi season in my neck of the woods. As excited as I am to see farm stands re-opening for the summer season, the selection in early June is pretty limited. Kohlrabi, peas, more kohlrabi, more peas… you get the idea. It’s a shame so many cooks discard the leaves from their kohlrabi. The leaves are both nutritious and delicious! Today we’re using them a bit like cabbage leaves, and are using fresh kohlrabi leaves to roll up a hearty filling of seasoned rice, tomatoes, corn, and peppers. Feel free to add ground beef and/or top with grated cheese if you’d like.

This is a frugal recipe, and makes use of an ingredient that many people overlook – my grandmother would approve. (Grandma might have used different spices and found a way to work in a dumpling or two, but she’d still approve.)

Let’s make the most of our early summer veggies!

WIN_20160501_135603Ingredients (Serves 6)

12 – 18 large kohlrabi leaves

1 cup basmati rice, uncooked

2 cups diced tomatoes with juice (fresh or canned; either way, keep the juice)

1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)

1/2 cup bell pepper, red or green, diced

1 tablespoon onion, finely diced (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (mild or hot)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup water (or chicken broth)

1 cup tomato juice

WIN_20160501_142617Directions

Step 1) Combine rice, 2 cups diced tomatoes with juice, corn, bell pepper, onion, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and water or broth in a large skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook over low heat for approximately 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes), until liquid is absorbed WIN_20160501_140920and rice is tender. Remove from heat.

Step 2) While rice mixture is cooking, carefully cut the center stem (sometimes called a vein) from each kohlrabi leaf. Overlap the two sides so that each leaf forms an approximate oval shape without a visible hole in the middle.

WIN_20160501_142747Step 3) Place a small amount of the rice mixture (about 2 tablespoons) on the center of each kohlrabi leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf in toward the middle (shown), then carefully roll up the leaf from the bottom. Place each kohlrabi roll-up seam side down in a lightly greased baking dish (I used two small baking dishes and froze one to enjoy later).

WIN_20160501_143930Step 4) Pour 1 cup of tomato juice over the top of your kohlrabi roll-ups. and cover the baking dish(es) with foil. Bake in a preheated, 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. If desired, uncover and top with shredded cheese for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

 

Rum Caramel Corn

WIN_20160528_161718While I look forward to summertime and love my garden, I’ll confess to enjoying a bit of air conditioning and an indoor breeze under a ceiling fan after playing in the dirt under the hot sun. I’ll also confess to feeling hungry after working in the garden, and unfortunately there’s nothing to harvest from the garden just yet!

Today I sated my post-gardening sweet tooth with this easy recipe for Rum Caramel Corn. I used a banged up old pot to cook the caramel. Boiling caramel may (or may not) cause a harmless, slight discoloration inside of a pan. To clean the pan in which you boiled the caramel, here’s an easy tip: fill the pan about 2 inches deep with water, and bring the water to a boil on the stove. When the water is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the pan. Immediately cover the pan and remove from heat. After about 15 minutes, when the water is still warm but comfortable to touch, scrub the inside of the pan. Voila! The caramel residue will wash away.

WIN_20160528_155729Ingredients (Makes 15 cups)

15 cups air popped popcorn

1/2 cup real butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons light molasses

1 teaspoon rum flavoring

WIN_20160528_160950Directions

Step 1) Combine butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup, and molasses in an old saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Allow caramel mixture to boil gently for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in rum flavoring.

WIN_20160528_161707Step 3) Spread popcorn on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Carefully drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Use a metal spatula to gently lift the coated popcorn. This spreads the caramel onto more of the popcorn, and also helps to prevent sticking.

Enjoy when cool!

 

Excellent Beef Stock

onion soup

Excellent Beef Stock can be used to create awesome meals such as French onion soup!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we are encouraging every cook (well, every non-vegan cook) to master the simple craft of making an excellent pot of beef stock. Quality beef stock sold in gourmet shops is delicious, but outrageously expensive. Those supermarket cans of stocks and broths? Well, read the label. Less expensive than their gourmet shop counterparts, those cans are over-salted and still overpriced. Some commercial food manufacturers are shameless enough to add caramel coloring to their beef stocks and broths. That’s right… the same artificial coloring added to soft drinks is added to beef stock!

Some recipes for beef stock call for the use of whole vegetables (i.e., a few carrots, or a whole onion). We think that’s just a little too precious. The fact is, you get the same flavor from vegetable scraps and peels, so why use up perfectly good vegetables making beef stock? We’re using peels (see below), and are sure you can find a good use for the peeled veggies themselves.  🙂 Let’s get started!

WIN_20160430_104540Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

3 pounds beef bones (ask the butcher at your local market – bones are always available)

Peel and outer layer of Continue reading

Shrimp Spring Rolls

WIN_20160502_173224Here’s to second chances! The first time I tried making spring rolls, they were a disaster. I swore I’d never attempt them again. Well, I’ve learned a few things since then and as it turns out, spring rolls really aren’t difficult to make at all! My loss is your gain – thanks to my mistakes, I’ll be able to help you avoid a few pitfalls and make delicious spring rolls on your very first attempt.

Fun fact: spring roll wrappers and vermicelli noodles are made of exactly the same thing… rice flour. Many spring roll recipes Continue reading

Korean Garaetteok

WIN_20160424_142917Korean Garaetteok, a type of rice noodle, is fast becoming a staple freezer item here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. These noodles are fun to remove from the freezer on busy weeknights and use to quickly jazz up dinner. Often, I add a cup or two of frozen Korean Garaetteok into soups during the last 15 minutes of simmer time. Occasionally, I’ll allow a batch of Korean Garaetteok to thaw on the countertop before stir-frying in sesame oil for about five minutes. Stir-fried Garaetteok can be tossed with vegetables for a savory side dish, or lightly coated with honey and crushed peanuts for a fun dessert. Enjoy this versatile item!

WIN_20160424_122115Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups rice flour

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

Step 1) Combine rice flour, boiling water, salt and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

WIN_20160424_122945Step 2) Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Transfer rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Knead with your knuckles (pressing into the mixture) for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. If mixture is too hot for your hands, try pressing into the mixture with the bottom of a mason jar instead.

WIN_20160424_125954Step 4) Grease countertop with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide dough into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece on the greased countertop into a 12 inch length.

Step 5) Set the lengths of dough aside for one hour, uncovered. This will dry the dough slightly, allowing it to slice easier.

Step 6) After 1 hour, slice the dough on a diagonal into bite-size pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. From this point, do one of the following:

  • Add your Korean Garaetteok to a pot of soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Delicious!
  • Stir-fry your Korean Garaetteok in sesame oil for about 5 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Toss with cooked veggies for a fun side dish, or drizzle with honey and crushed peanuts for dessert!
  • Freeze your uncooked Korean Garaetteok in an airtight container for later use.

Happy Cooking!

 

 

Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberry jamIt’s that time of year again, friends – Wahoo! Strawberry season! To be fair, strawberry season is still a few weeks away in my Northern climate. However, my sister is visiting from Arkansas, and brought several boxes of fresh picked berries with her (isn’t she awesome?).

The thing about strawberries is, they’re delicious for about one day after they are picked. If you have a large quantity of strawberries to preserve, you need to work fast! Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam is super fast! Ready… Set… GO!

Ingredients (Makes 4  cups)

5 cups of strawberries, washed and cut in half (green hulls removed)

5 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

Directions

Step 1) Place halved strawberries in a large pot. Mash the strawberries a few times with a potato masher. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

Step 2) Bring strawberry mixture to a full, vigorous boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. You want this mixture to really boil… it should boil enough that bubbles continue to cover the surface of the mixture even when you are stirring!

Step 3) When your strawberry mixture has reached a FULL boil (this will take at least ten minutes, maybe longer), stir in the pouch of pectin. Allow the mixture to return to a FULL boil, and boil with stirring for two minutes.

Step 4) Remove the pot from the heat and add grated lemon zest. Stir gently. Allow your Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam to cool before ladling into storage containers. This jam will keep nicely in the refrigerator for two weeks, or can be frozen for up to six months. [As if strawberry jam would be neglected for six months – ha!]