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Baked Potato Soup

This delicious soup came from a combination of a late dinner with my husband, a visit to Costco and a brainstorming session during our last camping trip!

Baked Potato Soup

On our way home from Disneyland last month, we were hungry, it was late, and there wasn’t much open in the area but a little steakhouse. We stopped for dinner and my husband ordered soup. A little while later, this delightful baked potato soup arrived at our table. One taste and it was decided we had to learn to make this ourselves.

During our pre-camping Costco visit, one of the ladies had a sample tray with cubes of aged sharp white cheddar. Now, I admit, I am cheese tramp. Good cheese (in jokes and on my plate) makes me happy, That little bite, or maybe three or four, I don’t remember, was delicious! Needless to say, we bought a block and a salami tray to take camping.

Fast forward to that camping trip! Freezing on the beach in our little tent trailer, snacking on salami, aged cheddar cheese and crackers, we started brain storming how to use the rest of the gigantic cheese block! It’s COSTCO people! It’s a two-pound block of cheese!

This is one of several recipes we came up with that day. The cheese is just a garnish, but it TOTALLY makes the soup!

Baked Potato Soup

8 TBLS (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
2 medium size baking potatoes
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
4 pieces of bacon, folded in half and cut into strips
chives, to taste
1 cup aged sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F..

Scrub your potatoes, then dry thoroughly. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Using your hands, lightly coat the potatoes with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Sprinkle each potato with Kosher salt. Place the potatoes directly on a rack in the oven. Don’t wrap them in foil! You want the crispy skin with great baked flavor! Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

When the potatoes are nearly done baking, start your soup base. Do this all in one pot, it makes clean-up much easier!

At the bottom of a medium stock pot, fry your bacon strips in 1 TBLS butter. When the bacon pieces are crisp, remove them from the pan and let them drain on a paper towel lined plate. Without removing any of the bacon fat, add the rest of the butter and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the onion is soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. The roux will get very thick. Be careful not to let it get brown.

Slowly pour in two cups of the chicken broth. Use a spatula to scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth and bring the mix to a boil, stirring often.

Chop the baked potatoes (with the skins still on!) into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup. Let the soup simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.

Add the pepper and red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Slowly add the heavy cream. I think the soup is better without it, but by all means, use it if you want your soup to be extra creamy! Either way, it’s going to be thick, delicious and wonderful!

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, chives and cheese. Serve immediately!

Baked Potato Soup

If you’re wondering about the other recipes we came up with, stay tuned! Next month could be very cheesy! 😉

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Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Chicken!

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers are one of my favorite appetizers. Then, I ran across a recipe with the same flavors stuffed inside a bacon wrapped chicken breast! Well, you know what happened next, right? Yep! This was dinner last night…

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Stuffed Chicken

It’s SO simple and easy! I used the same filling from my Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers and they came out perfectly! Why didn’t I think of this before? This meal is going into our usual dinner rotation and I couldn’t be happier!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Chicken
Inspired from Closet Cooking – Serves 4

4 large chicken breasts, pounded thin
4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 green onions, diced, both green and white parts
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 jalapeños, finely diced
8 slices bacon
Salt and Lemon Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, cheddar, onions, garlic and jalapeño together. Set aside.

On a cutting board, lay chicken breasts flat. Season both sides with salt and lemon pepper. Place 1/4 of the mixture on the widest section of each breast. Roll the breast up tightly. Wrap two pieces of bacon around each breast. Secure with a toothpick if needed.

Place bacon-wrapped breasts on a rack in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp.

Bacon wrapped jalapeño chicken

We really enjoyed these. Start to finish it took less than an hour to get on the table. I love that!

Try them yourself and see what you think!

Double Stuffed Mini Potatoes

Double Stuffed Mini Potatoes

Our annual family Christmas party means two things. One: people will be LOUD! I married into a family of talkers. Everyone together means everyone tries to talk over the other person and occasionally (always) it can get quite loud in the house. Two: there will be tables full of amazing food. We have a few standard favorites, but for the most part, we try different types of appetizers and desserts each year. Last year I did Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers and the Santa Hat Brownies. This year, I made S’mores Brownies, Avocado Fries and these Double Stuffed Mini Red Potatoes. They are a bit time-consuming to make, but I promise they are worth every cheesy bite!

DOUBLE STUFFED MINI POTATOES

Ingredients:
Approx 2 lbs small red potatoes
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 head roasted garlic, smashed to a paste
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp fresh dill
1/2 cup finely grated extra sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1/4 cup, plus 2 TBLS Chives, diced

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 F.
Put potatoes in a large pot, cover completely with water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender (about 8-10 minutes). Drain potatoes and let cool. Cut each potato in half crosswise. You may need to cut a tiny sliver off the ends of each potato so they will stand up. Carefully use a small melon baller to scoop out the center of each potato. Be sure to leave about a 1/4-inch thick shell.
Place the scooped potato pulp in a bowl and add the cream cheese, sour cream, garlic paste, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and dill. Use a potato masher and smash together until well combined. Mix in the cheeses and 1/4 cup chives and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set potato shells on the sheet and sprinkle the inside of the shells with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Spoon the potato mixture evenly into the potato shells and bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with remaining Chives!

Mini Red Potato Bites

I made these vegetarian for our daughter. However, my husband says they would be even better with bacon! What couldn’t be made better with bacon? If you add bacon, you’ll need about 6 slices, cooked till crisp and crumbled. Add them into the potato mash when you add the cheeses and chives. You could even save an extra slice to use for garnish! Either way, these disappear quickly! Enjoy!!

My year (and then some) in review!

A month or so ago, while a bear was stealing our delicious double-smoked bacon, my blog passed it’s one year blog-iversary! I’m very late in doing a recap. Please forgive me!

I guess if there is one thing you should know about me, I’m “chronologically challenged.” To any potential or current employers, of course, I’m only kidding. To the rest of you, I will be late for my own funeral. I think it’s genetic.

Moving on!

This year has been an amazing, wonderful, roller-coaster adventure ride! As I look through the pictures on my computer and the ones etched on my heart, I’m humbled at how richly I’ve been blessed. I have met many incredible people, taken a crazy number of cooking classes, and been fortunate enough to meet some amazing Chefs!

One of the biggest blessings from the last year is a great friendship with someone who goes along on foodie adventures, encourages every foodie whim, finds awesome opportunities and when we’re out, she never eats until I’ve taken pictures of her food. 🙂 Thanks Marie!
This is her, hiding behind a basket she won at the O.C. Chocolate Festival VIP party!
She is totally made of awesome sauce!

With over 30 cooking classes in the past 13 months, I have learned to make things like classic French Macarons (I never knew cookies could have “feet!”), risotto, rolled meatloaf, cake pops, doughnuts, pickles, frittatas, strawberry jam, potato wrapped fish, crepes, foccacia bread, Provençal chicken, grilled pizza dough, hand-made pasta and how to use chocolate in a variety of things! Like I need an excuse for that last one, right? HA! There were a couple of classes that were terrible, but in the end, they ALL taught me something. Even if that something was what NOT to do when I have my own cooking classes. 😉

Some of the best things I learned to make on my own this year, either through the internet, cookbook or a recipe from a Chef, have been vanilla extract, gallettes – both sweet and savory, bangers and mash, homemade chicken pot pie, pumpkin pie from real pumpkins, melted snowman cookies, root beer float cookies for ice cream sandwiches, chocolate dipped potato chip cookies, hot wings, cheesecake stuffed strawberries, spicy baked rigatoni, egg rolls, fish tacos, lemon curd, avocado fries, potato pancakes, seared scallops, jicima slaw, Julia’s beef bourgeon, quinoa salad and a copy cat version of Northwoods Inn Cabbage Salad. Yep, it’s been a delicious year!

I’ve followed a dozen Chefs around the Santa Monica Farmers Market through The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories – Follow That Chef series! They each imparted wisdom, great experiences and taught me how to make my own Ricotta cheese (Thank you Chef Jeremy!) how to make raw spring rolls (Thanks Kirsten Gum!) all about Lardoons (Thank you Linda Civitello!) how to make my own chorizo (Thank you Chef Paul Osher!) about fantastic Thai vegetarian dishes (Thank you Michael Natkin!) how to poach salmon in oil and make a plate look stunning (Thank you MasterChef Tracy Kontos!) different ways to enjoy heirloom tomatoes (Thank you Gwen Kenneally) not to be afraid of Kale Chips and beet salad (Thank you Suzanne Landry!) and so much more!!!

I’ve gotten autographed cookbooks from: Gwen Kenneally, Michael Natkin, Joy Wilson, Suzanne Landry, Warren Catterson, Laura Werlin, Tyler Florence, Mario Batali, and Guy Fieri! Even more exciting, I’ve met each of them, with the exception of Mario Batali, Tyler Florence and Warren Catterson. Warren and I are in the same food bloggers group on FB and we’ve chatted before, but, Mario and Tyler, if you want to meet for coffee somewhere, I’m Ok with that too! 😀

I’ve had fantastic “food experiences” this year! The IE food truck festival, the O.C. Chocolate Festival, LA Food and Wine (the first year), Brew ‘B’ Que on the Pier, The Share Our Strength Bake Sale, Taste of the Nation – Los Angeles, an audition for a TV show, LA Food and Wine (the sequel), just to name a few.

Most importantly this year, I’ve learned to be fearless in my own kitchen! I’ve developed a passion for trying different foods, cooking with fresh, natural ingredients and experiencing LIFE in each delicious moment.

These are opportunities and things I NEVER would have imagined if I hadn’t started this blogging journey last year. Next year, I’ll be taking you along to more places, more classes and more events! I’m so excited about what the next few months have in store! I’m especially looking forward to many, many new foodie adventures and I hope you’ll be joining me for each of them!

P.S. Did I mention I met Guy Fieri…. TWICE! SQUEEEEE!!

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