Welcome to Christina’s world!

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Good Morning,

You are probably wondering who I am. I know on the back of the brochure is a brief overlook, but here is a little more. I live in the great mid-west. I have been blessed with many wonderful people in my life. Inspiration comes at me from every angle. Sun shine, beautiful fruit, vibrant colors to name a few. I have spent my whole life in and around the kitchens of my family. Warm, bright and happy places, with loving creative people. How could I not love cooking? So welcome, I hope you enjoy your stay.

Christina

You may return to the website at any point by clicking La Bella Christina Kitchens.

Date Night

My husband and I have 2 children who even though they go to college, still live with us. We are also relative newlyweds. I met my husband after being divorced a long time. He had been alone for a while as well. So, when we became a couple, we did so with children in tow. Not much time for us to be just “us”.  Now that the children are older and we only have the two at home, once in a while we will have an evening without any kids! We like to try and go out just the two of us, on those nights. This past Saturday was one of those nights. My husband and I talked all day about which restaurant we would go to. What type of food we would have. What movie we might see…. You get the idea. When the youngest drove away in the late afternoon, we were sitting on the porch still talking about what wonderful adventure we would have that evening. Since, we were being left to our own devices. So there we sat and chatted as afternoon became evening and then the evening sun began to set. About the time the automatic light clicked on we realized that we had missed our chance to “have a date”. It was too late to get dressed and go out to the movies and dinner. Instead we drove to the nearest Chinese place and ordered our supper to go. Then back to the house and front porch, laughing the whole way. We sat there in companionable silence and ate our meal. We were still sitting there hand in hand when our youngest returned. “Where did you two go?” she asked. We just smiled at her and at each other. What have I learned about “Date night”, you may ask? Sometimes a special night isn’t where you go, but who you go with.

 

Christina

Holidays, Birthday’s and Grand Openings

We have have been really busy around here. As hard as we are working, there are still things to celebrate. Today is one of my beloved children’s birthday. As is tradition he gets to pick his meal. He asked for Sausage Bread. Our Sausage Bread has it’s roots in another family’s tradition. I started out in my career as bookkeeper many, many years ago. When I became a single parent of a large group of charming children. I had to find a job that would give me benefits and help me take care of my family. So, 24 years ago I learned to load airplanes with freight. I went to work for a large air carrier. I did many things around the world for them. The people I met there became family. No matter where I have been in the company, what I did for them, there has always been a friendly face and a welcoming hand. My favorite part of this “family” were the parties and pitch-ins. Every one of them a taste treat. We would gather around “Melinda’s” Sweet Potato Pie, “Bob’s” Sausage Bread, “Debbi’s” Ambrosia and “Arlenn’s” BBQ. Just amazing food from just amazing people. You never knew what was going to show up, but it was going to be great. As I move into a new phase in my life. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to take a moment to step back a little in time to recreate “Bob’s” Sausage roll. Bob would bring it in at Christmas time. Usually we were so busy that time of year we would not have time to get a decent meal. He would show up with a couple of these “Sausage Rolls” and a stack of printed recipes. He knew we would all be wanting that recipe. He was right!

So this morning as I was getting ready to wake my Birthday Boy with the breakfast he requested, I pulled out one of “Bob’s” copy’s and began to make his sausage rolls. Stepping back into the arms of a great family and great memories (Thanks guys, for all of that). I have included today “Bob’s Sausage Roll” recipe. I hope that it brings you warmth from the inside out, the way it does to me. Oh, and Happy Birthday to my son “Awesomeness”, (LOL) you know who you are!

Christina

Bob’s Baked Sausage Roll

1 loaf frozen bread dough

1 lb Pork sausage

½ lb Grated Mozzarella cheese

2 ½ TBSP Parmesan Cheese

1 TBSP Parsley flakes

1 TSP Garlic powder

½ TSP Onion

½ TSP Accent

½ TSP Oregano

1 Beaten Egg

 

Let bread thaw and rise. I just cover it and let it sit in my off oven until it does it’s thing. Make sure to give it a coat of olive oil to keep it from sticking..

During first rise I usually make the filling. This recipe I cook the pork drain it and let it cool. Take everything else and put it in a bowl and mush it together.

Take your bread, I usually put some floor on the counter and slightly knead the dough. Cover it and let it rest for about 5 min. I roll it out to make as thin as possible. Take a cookie sheet put olive oil and flour on it. Place your bread on cookie sheet, add the ingredients on it and roll it up. Paint a little egg wash on the ends and crimp it over. Take the rest of the wash and paint the top. Sprinkle with cheese if you like. Now, you can bake it right now in a 350 for 30 minutes. What I like to do is, let it rise again in the empty oven for an additional hour or so. Once it is double or you like the way it looks. Turn on your oven and let it bake. Take it to rest and cool. Slice and Yummmmmmm

 

Memorial Weekend…..

This last weekend was a busy one around our house, as anyone who can see the count down calendar on the front screen would suspect. Still we had our family gathering. Beer brats on the grill, some of Maria’s homemade pasta and cheese dish (I must get her to post that one here. It is outstanding!), fresh bread and great company. Laughter and chatter filled the air as family got down to just being together. This is one of my favorite Holidays. I have many sons in the Armed services. Most of my male relatives have served or are serving. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who serves or is serving. I feel an overwhelming pride in my family and my country. How lucky I am to live in such a wonderful country. To see people I love safe from fear. That here, we honor our differences, as well as where we are similar. As the sun set and we broke into our ice cream. It was nice to know that our summer together is just beginning.

On Monday morning everyone began to get moving. Our people who had to travel were getting ready to go. I was trying to think of how to feed the horde and not tie myself down to the kitchen. I really enjoy sitting at the table with my cup of coffee and chatting just a few minutes longer with these great people. My dear Mother-in-law suggested I should just put out the sausages left over from last night. Beer brats for breakfast? Color me skeptical. After I got a moment to think about it, well darn it, why not? So here is what we did. Mom cut the sausage into small pieces and we soaked it in milk. That pulled out some of the extra “saltiness” that the beer imparted. I took about 6 Potatoes and ran them through the mandolin to slice them extra thin. We chopped some sun dried tomatoes into thin julienne slices. Eggs and a little milk, Hungarian Paprika and onion powder and celery salt all together into a casserole. We placed it into an oven at 350 and in an hour we had a delicious breakfast. I could not believe how good Beer brats for breakfast was! To top it all off other than toast and coffee, I sat and chatted with our guests as they gathered their things and prepared to leave. It was a charming end to a delightful weekend. I hope that your long weekend was a happy one with lots of loving faces around you.

I included the recipe we “created”, for you. I think you find it easy to make and change to fit your families desires.

Enjoy!

Christina

Beer Brat and Potato Breakfast Casserole

 

 

 

6 Beer Brats (all ready cooked. Cut into small, bite size pieces and soak for 15 to 20 minutes in milk)

6 Potatoes (sliced thin and in manageable pieces)

1/4 Cup julienned Sun Dried Tomatoes

Dash Nutmeg

1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder

1/4 Teaspoon Hungarian Paprika

Marjoram sprinkle each layer of meat and sun dried tomatoes

10 eggs

1/2 Cup Milk

Take your casserole dish and spray it with an oil to keep everything from sticking. Beat your eggs, paprika, onion powder celery salt, and milk together and drain the brats. I poured a little of the egg batter in the casserole and laid down a layer of potatoes. On top of this I add some of the brat pieces and the sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkle the marjoram on it. New layer of potatoes then the brats and tomatoes. Sprinkle marjoram and repeat. I think we got about 4 layers. Slowly pour the egg mix onto your casserole. I filled it to the point where it covered the potatoes on top. Sprinkle the top with a dash of nutmeg, a little of the paprika, marjoram and finally celery salt. You can add cheese if you would like. We didn’t because of a food allergy in one of our guests. I started out my casserole by broiling the top for about 5 minutes, then reducing the heat to 350. This crusted up the top and kept the top potatoes from turning any unattractive colors. Bake for an additional 35 minutes. The best way to check to see if it is done is with a clean knife. This not unlike a quiche here. Stick a knife in, if it comes out clean you are pretty good. It will also tell you if the potatoes are done. You can also shake the pan. Loose eggs will wiggle. If your still wiggling, just add 5 minutes to your timer and try again. When your happy, pull it out and let it set for 5 minutes to cool. Slice and enjoy!

Mother’s Day

Yesterday was not my normal Mother’s Day. Normally my Mother’s Day starts out with my husband and children making breakfast for me. This year did not go according to plan. My first contact with one of my darlings was a little after 8. One of my darling “daughters” called to wish me a “Happy Mothers Day” and tell me what her daughter’s were making her for breakfast. I could not help but smile at how the tradition had carried forward. When I was young my siblings and I would “sneak” as quietly as possible into the kitchen and make “Egg Bread” for our Mom. The chicanery that quickly followed was the stuff great memories are made of. Flour all over the floor (even though flour was not part of the recipe), egg shell in my little sister’s hair and the semi congealed unknown substance on the bottom of our slippers, you know standard kid stuff. One of us would run out to the yard and rip some poor plant that was unfortunate enough to have bloomed that morning and stick it in a glass of water to put by my Mom’s plate. My Mother has always been a beauty in my eyes, but those mornings she looked more beatific than usual (boy, Mom I hope you are reading this). Smiling at her minions as she “oooh’d” and “aaahh’d” over her barely edible meal. I know how hard it must have been for her to stay in bed while we “crashed” around in her kitchen (personal experience many years later), but she always acted surprised and delighted by our efforts. I still remember the “recipe” for our “Egg Bread”, just like it was one of those enchanted mornings many years ago. Now we call it “French Toast”  and it usually comes to me with bacon and coffee. I had a very special Mother’s Day this year. My oldest son returned from Afghanistan. Another son fought to bring me a very special present. I was able to visit with another son that I had not seen in quite some time. I talked to my own Mom and shared with her a bit of my morning. My dear husband got me one of my favorite treats and broke out his teppanyaki, to make me a wonderful Japanese styled supper. My Mother-in-law shared our celebration and the children near to us shared our day. A day of flowers and gifts, good feeling and good food. At the end of the day a deep appreciation for the wonderful women who are around me and bring color and flavor to my world. I also have a deep feeling of gratitude for the children in my life who by virtue of them being here, have granted me the title of “Mother”.

I have included my version of “Egg Bread” or “French Toast”. Watch out for the flour….

Christina

FRENCH TOAST

1 LOAF OF WHITE BREAD (EITHER FRESH OR STALE IS FINE. I LIKE FRESH THICK CUT BREAD)

10 EGGS

1/4 MILK

1/4 TSP VANILLA

1 DASH OF NUTMEG

1/8 TSP CINNAMON

MIX TOGETHER EGGS, MILK, VANILLA, NUTMEG, CINNAMON AND BEAT UNTIL IT IS OF UNIFORM CONSISTENCY. USE A PIE PAN (MAKES IT EASIER TO DUNK THE BREAD) TO PUT THE MIX IN. USE A GRIDDLE AND GET IT TO ABOUT 400 DEGREES. TAKE THE BREAD ONE PIECE AT A TIME AND DIP ONE SIDE INTO THE “BATTER” COUNT TO 5 AND FLIP THE BREAD AND REPEAT THE COUNT. SPRAY GRIDDLE LIGHTLY WITH VEGETABLE OIL AND PLACE BREAD ON THE GRIDDLE. WATCH THE FIRST PIECE IT WILL TELL YOU HOW LONG BEFORE YOU NEED TO FLIP ALL OF THE OTHERS. YOU DON’T WANT TO FLIP THEM TO MUCH THEY WILL BEGIN TO FALL APART. ONCE BOTH SIDES OF THE BREAD ARE LIGHTLY BROWN PULL THEM OFF. YOU CAN KEEP THEM WARM IN AN OVEN SET ON VERY LOW, BUT THEY ARE BEST FRESH OFF THE GRIDDLE. DRESS WITH BUTTER AND SYRUP OR HONEY.

 

 

 

Fireside Ice Cream

When my children were younger we did a lot of camping. As a single parent with a large brood of children, camping was a cheap way to entertain as well as a way to take time away from our worries and reconnect as a family. Like all things my little army did, we were really good at camping. We had some truly inspired ideas out under the stars. We sang, made up stories, played “Telephone” and generally enjoyed our group. Often our campsite became a magnet for other children in the camp grounds. We would make campfire pizza, cake in a ice cream cone and even banana bread. While other campsites would sport chilli, we would have tortilla chips and melted cheese or pudding. My children enjoyed having some of the “cooler” treats available.  I had some younger children at the time and keeping them busy while I made our evening meal could have been a challenge. Thanks to my Girl Scout training when I was young, I hit on a solution that charmed my young children.

My children would tell the other children they played with, that “their” Mommy could make ice cream by the fire, at which point my children would lure their prey to our campsite. The other children would suggest that my children were delusional. So, into camp they would march, to a rhythm of “can to” and “no way” etc., you get the idea. My youngsters were wise beyond their years, you see the more hands on deck the better this works. Little children might get tired while the “magic” works. “Mom, Jimmy (or John or whomever) says you can’t make ice cream by a campfire! You can, can’t you?” would say one of my darlings. With that the trap snapped shut. “Well of course I can dear” I would say with a smile. I would withdraw my coffee cans and begin the “magic”. I had a simple recipe for ice cream. Using an idea I had from when I was a Girl Scout, I took 2 coffee cans in different sizes (I actually used 2 sets of 2 since my recipe make more than 32oz of liquid, and it is hard to find the larger cans), ice and rock salt, add a little duck tape and you have ice cream.

I would set up the “inside” can with milk, heavy cream (well chilled is best, put it at the bottom of your cooler), sugar and a touch of vanilla extract (I know, who camps with Vanilla, right? Me!!!!)  and salt. Tape the top shut and put it in the larger can. Add Ice and Rock salt, tape that shut and ask the children to sit down by the fire and roll it back and forth to each other. You see the method to my Motherly madness.They are sitting right there by you while you make supper. Amazing how a woman’s mind works, isn’t it. You have to stop off and on and drain off the water and add more ice and salt, but with about 45 minutes of rolling you will have a soft ice cream. At that point you can put it in the cooler to start to harden, while you eat supper. After supper, well there is nothing quite as wonderful as ice cream on a hot summer’s night.

We would sit, my children and their companions around the fire. Talking and singing until the other children had to go back to their sites. Sometimes other parents would join us. We would hold our little ones close, while they drifted to sleep in our protective circle. Camping (with no video games, please!) is like pushing the reset button on your computer. You come back to your life a little refreshed and clean of debris. A smile on your lips and your children’s songs in your ears, you return to face the world a new.

Below is my recipe for Fireside Ice Cream. I hope that your children are charmed by your magic too!

 

Christina

Fireside Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 bag crushed ice
  • 4 cups coarse salt
  • 2 large coffee cans
  • 2 larger coffee cans (one must fit inside the other with enough room around the outside for ice)

 

Happy Easter…..

I am from an extraordinarily large family. When I was a child, we would get up early on Easter morning (mostly so my Mom could finish our new dresses) and go Church with my Grandparents and Aunts, Uncles and Cousins…. you get the idea. Afterwards we would go to my Grandparents’ house for our Easter feast and games. Over the years, the faces and activities have changed. The tradition of gathering has stayed the same.

This year I traveled to my Mom’s. There was a rare break in activity at my house. Everyone else was busy doing something else. I was pretty much on my own. My darling husband was kind of tied to the house and all of the children had other plans. I left on Saturday so I could spend some time with Mom. My Mom enjoys the gathering of people in her house more and more as time passes. The kaleidoscope of faces that has become our family today is absolutely amazing.

On Saturday night Mom, my youngest brother and I sat at the table over looking the lake. Trying to keep up with my own large family and that of my seven (yes 7) brothers and sisters can be challenging. What is amazing is how they all stay connected to each other. Thank goodness for the internet. They all keep track of this website, too (Hi, guys!).

On Sunday the family started to trickle in. Each person bringing in something to add to our feast. Just for the record I did not bring anything, but me (You would think I would have at least brought a cupcake or two, right!). There were the Sisters who have been an important part of our family for years. They brought Deviled Eggs. My Sister’s Sister-in-law, who brought wine and laughter to our kitchen. My oldest Brother and his wife, who also brought laughter and goodies. My Nephew and his Bride. All charm and grace, that one. One of my other brothers came by. Another Brother and his Wife slipped in to enjoy the day. My Aunt “dropped” by with a fruit salad in tow. I sat there soaking in my loving family, like a daisy does the sun. There have been tough times and good. Struggles and not, but that gathering of love around a Easter ham never seems to change all that much. It’s easy to believe that we all can find peace and happiness.

Eventually I had to leave and come back home. Everyone expressed the fear for the drive I was now going to take. My almost 80 year old Aunt who had just driven 40 miles to be there was worried about me! After all the hugs and goodbyes, I headed out to my car. My Mom rushed out to do one more tradition. She stands at the end of her drive and waves until I am completely out of sight. Just like she has since I was old enough to drive away. Some traditions are definitely worth keeping.

This year my Mom made the Ham a little differently. She took a pre-cooked, spiral cut ham and place it in a crock pot with about half a liter bottle of a lemon-lime soda. The resulting ham was juicy and very flavorful. A great fix and forget for your next party or gathering.

Enjoy

Christina

 

 

 

 

It feels like a Sunday….

I have some amazing cooks in my family. My Grandmother (My Dad’s Mom. She actually helped my Mom find her love of cooking), My Papa, My Mom, My sisters and My own Dad. Then there were all those wonderful Aunts and Great Aunts who’s kitchens I had the great privilege to be in. They were city cooks and cooks from hard working farms. My Grandmother actually was still making her own soap in the 60′s. Of all these wonderful women (oh, and Men too!) the one person who taught me the most was my Mom. She taught me that cooking was fun. That ingredients were like relationships. Some of them will play nicely together. Other ingredients need a little coaxing to get along with the ingredient you chose to work with. Still others may not ever mix well, but you can still bring it to the party. However, he may have to sit way in the back and away from the others. No formal training could teach me what she did.

My Mom was a single parent most of my childhood. We lived near her parents in a small sleepy little town. My Mom worked all week long. On Saturday we would clean the house and do any homework we had. Every Sunday my Grandparents would sit with my Mother and her brood at 930 service. After that we would go to my Grandparent’s house for bakery fresh sweets. Then it was back home. My Mom would walk into the house and take of her coat. She would then lift her apron off the hook and immediately start Dinner. Sunday Dinner was always about 4 in the afternoon. First she would start her pie dough. While it chilled she would put chicken pieces that she breaded (this is a recipe for another day) in her huge cast iron frying pan. I would sit on a chair at the stove and stir. What I had to stir would vary from week to week, but I loved the job and did it willingly. One or more of my siblings would be peeling potatoes or doing dishes. All of us were together in that warm sunny little kitchen, laughing and working.

While the chicken finished it’s journey to scrumptious, Mom would pull out the dough for the pie. This she carefully craft her dough into a masterpiece of flavor. She explained to me, that you handle the dough as little as possible, with as little extra flour as possible to keep it from getting tough. As seasons moved so would the march through the fillings in her pies. She made berry pies with the same ease she made her black bottom pie. The key to all of her many pies, was her dough. As a child I would steal pieces of the dough, while my Mom would swat at my little hand. Even today when she makes her 15 odd pies at Thanksgiving, she still saves a little piece for me (in the fridge, I don’t get to help “stir” anymore). Everyone of us “kids” had their favorite that she bakes just for us. So do Grandkids and now even Great Grandkids. Mine is Blueberry, sometimes I have to share with my next closest brother. He forgets Mom makes it for me (Just kidding, Mom). The pies at Thanksgiving stretch the length of the family room table. Each one as lovely and delicious as the last.

In the spring she would always do a strawberry pie. Open on the top with a beautiful strawberry glaze. Oh, I loved that glaze. What a gorgeous, almost sensuous pie. Big fat strawberries with the tops down in ever widening circles and covered in glaze. Watching my Mom make this pie was wonderful treat. Soon we would sit down the table and bow our heads. Grateful our family and the food before us. After everyone was finished eating, she would bring out the pie to cut and serve. Each of us getting a slice and “oooohing” and “aaahhing” as they were pulled out. Usually a very noisy place, the table would grow quiet as we contemplated our slice. Then the scrape and clack of utensils on plates as we got down to the business of devouring our pie.

I have included Mom’s recipe for pie dough. This will make a 9″ single crust pie. You can increase it by 1/2 to make a 9″ pie with a top. Use the increased dough for lattice work pie.  You can adjust the dough as you like. The basic ratio is solid and can take it.

Mom’s Pie Dough

1 1/2 Cup Flour (All Purpose Sifted)

1/2 Cup Shortening COLD (regular Crisco or the like. I like butter flavored, but that’s me)

1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 Cup milk (put it in the freezer until you are ready. You can also use ice water)

That’s it that is all you need to make it. Sift your flour and add your baking powder to it. If I am making a berry pie I usually sprinkle about a Teaspoon of sugar in it too. Cut your shortening into the dry. I have a potato masher I use. Do this as quickly as possible. Then add just enough milk/water to make it bind together. You won’t use the whole half cup. Turn it out on to a very lightly flour surface. Handle your dough as little as possible. Once you have it blended put it in the refrigerator to chill (1/2 hour is usually good). Once chilled again put it out on a lightly floured surface to roll. Take your hand and fill it with flour to put on the roller. The roller should be lightly coated. Then roll out a circle. I fold mine in quarter to move to the pie pan. My Mom places hers over her roller. Do either one, there is no right or wrong.

You can use a canned filling. We will do a filling another day. You could start a Sunday family tradition of your own.

 

Enjoy!

Christina

 

Nick’s Chili

I have been blessed with many wonderful children in my life. Besides my own, there was an ever changing army of faces at my dinner, breakfast and lunch table. They all feel just like my own. As each person has grown and gone on to their lives as wonderful adults, we talk often and fondly about the raucous meals at our home. There were the weekend long “slumber parties” (A.K.A. weekends of endless video and board games.) Twister was a favorite at my home. Sometimes we would have 3 mats going at the same time.  I have always enjoyed the candor and enthusiasm that young people bring.

Because there were always a lot of mouths at my table, I learned to cook in big batches. The biggest challenge for supper was usually to find a pot big enough for the meal. Everyone had a role in preparing our meal, which usually led to out and out mayhem in the kitchen.  My “sons’ ” all learned to cook meals that they could serve to anyone. My “children” all learned that the table is a place to connect with your family and bring friends closer to their hearts. The memories are dear to all of us, and the source of many laughs when we talk.

In the fall, there would always be the inevitable pot of chili. Sometimes 2, depending how large the first pot was. My son Nick, was always at my elbow helping to put it together. It seemed it always fell to Nick to add the final ingredients. He loved to sneak in the honey, as his “secret” ingredient.  As the years have gone on he now has his own table, filled with happy faces and his own chili recipe. Every time I share a bowl of chili with family, or friend, I think of the cool fall nights, bright happy faces, laughter and full tables of our home.

I have included our simple recipe. You can add or subtract, the options can be endless. The bright, warm and happy faces? Well, you will have to add your own. Please enjoy!

ChristinaNick’s Chili

1 Large Can Dark Red Kidney beans (15 oz or larger)

1 Large Can Light Red Kidney beans (15 oz or larger)

1 Medium Can of Black Beans

1 Large Can of Chili Beans (40 oz, Brook’s puts out a style my family likes)

1 Lb Cooked and Drained Ground Beef (I use 87/13. You can use what you like)

1 Lb Cooked and Drained Ground Pork (If you prefer to do without pork, just use a fattier beef 73/27)

1 Can of Beef Broth (14.5 oz, low sodium might be good. There is enough salt showing up to this party)

1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes with no added salt (Same reason as above)

 1 Large Can Diced Tomatoes

1 Large Sweet Pepper Chopped (Any color will do)

2 Stalks Celery Chopped

1 Large Onion Chopped (You pick what you like)

6 Cloves of Garlic Chopped

¼ Cup Honey

1 or 2 Packets of your Favorite Taco Seasoning

Assorted spices – Hungarian Paprika, Chili Powder, Powdered Mustard, Etc. anything that your family adds to Chili.

Take the first 3 cans of beans, rinse and drain them. In whatever vessel you have chosen for the job add olive oil and start the heat at about medium maybe a touch higher. Once your oil is ready add your onions and celery sprinkle a little salt to get them started. Cook them until softened. Then add Garlic and sweet peppers (If you want spicy peppers you can add them here as well. I am very careful with the heat of my Chili, but if that is what you like, be careful not to make it inedible.). Add your drained meat at this time. The first thing we are going to do is build our sauce. So crushed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and beef broth join the pot.  Stir it for a while to let it begin to marry (A term used for when flavors begin to mingle). This is where I add the Brooke’s Chili beans (they have a sauce with some great flavors, so I add that as well) and the honey. Give that a few minutes to heat through and bring some flavors forward. Take your Taco Seasoning and open the packet. Begin to add that to the sauce. Add a little stir give it a few and taste. Repeat as you want. Stop when you think you are just about there. Sometimes I add a little more powdered Garlic and Hungarian Paprika (This has a little heat to it, so taste carefully before you add more.),plus any other spices I think it needs. Sometimes I add a jar of picante or salsa for more vegetables and flavor. Now the beans go in. Turn the heat down low and let it take it’s time to get the party going. You can add anything that makes you think of Chili. Sometimes we add chopped black olives. We like to have shredded Monterrey Jack and Cheddar on the side, with macaroni noodles and soup crackers. There is just no wrong way to enjoy Chili!

 

 

Maria’s Favorite Soup!

Hi there,

Today was cold and snowy, so I thought it would be nice to have some hot soup for our break. Maria has never been big on any kind of soup except for chicken noodle. You know the high sodium canned kind. On our ever present quest to eat healthier, we have been on the look out for an easy alternative. Thus was born our “Tomato Bisque”. Nobody was more surprised that Maria liked it than me. We both come from very large families. Our Mother’s both had different attitudes on family eating. My Mother expected us to eat everything on our plate and I did. Growing up with many mouths to feed. My Mother was very resourceful, but often we had to eat things like spinach, like it or not. I eat everything. I try all food put in front of me.

Maria’s Mother did not believe that the dinner table should become a battle ground for kid’s who didn’t like certain foods. Her Mother tended to cook towards satisfying the many. If a child in Maria’s household tried a food and did not like it, they were not required to finish the plate. As a result Maria can be… well a little picky. Ok, let’s be honest Maria is a lot picky.

When I brought out our steaming mugs of soup, Maria already had her nose all wriggled up. I knew I was going to get complaints. “I don’t like tomato soup”, she said. “I know, just take one sip. If you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it” I said. Maria makes great faces when she doesn’t think she is going to like something. I have even seen her gag! The Tomato Bisque has light creamy texture, flavorful with a touch of basil. It makes me think of a herb garden in the fall. We sat down together and looked in to the warm orange colored soup. “It’s kind of pretty”, she said.  I told her, “There are all sorts of good things that tomatoes bring to this soup.” . “The best part of two mugs of warm soup on a cold winter’s day, is sharing with someone you care about”. She sighed. Not the quiet simple sigh, but the huge dramatic, “I know I am not going to win this one”, sigh. She took a tentative sip (She had her eyes closed. Like that would help!). Her eye’s flew open. “I like this!”, she said. “I knew you would”, I said. We sat and chatted the rest of our breaks over our mugs of what is now known as “Maria’s Favorite Soup!”.

Please enjoy,

Christina

Tomato Bisque (A.K.A. Maria’s Favorite Soup!)

 

 

 

 

1 Pound Ripe Plum Tomatoes – clean seeds from the tomatoes and chop

1/2 White Onion – chopped

2 Coves Garlic – chopped

4 Tablespoon Butter

1 16 oz Can Low Sodium Chicken Broth

2 Cups Filtered Water

1 Cup Cream

1 Tablespoon Dried Basil

Salt & Pepper To Taste

In a pan melt the butter over a burner set to just a little less than medium. Add your diced onion lightly salt and let it soften for about 5 minutes. Now your chopped garlic goes in. Let it work for just a few more minutes. The tomatoes go into your pan to cook with the garlic and onions for about 5 minutes. Pour the chicken broth in and bring it to a boil, then turn down the burner. Cover your pan and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Take the soup from the pan and place it in a food processor. We want to blend it until it is smooth. You can also use an immersion blender. Strain the soup back in the pan. Add water, cream and the other seasonings. Let it cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn down your heat and let it work on a warm burner for another 20 minutes. I like to serve this in it’s own mug with a sprinkle of Parmesan.

 

 

Phoning It In….

Funny thing happened on my way home the other day. Maria at a loss for something to fix her Dad, who had shown up unexpectedly, for supper called me on my cell. What to do? So, I asked her, “what do you have on hand?”. Maria said “nothing”. “Great!”, I said. After some rather pointed questions, I achieved the following information. She had Celery, Onions, Garlic, cans of crushed Tomatoes (no added salt), Honey, pasta and a little red wine. “Congratulations!” I said, “you have Spaghetti and Marinara sauce”. “I do?, she said. Why yes she did! I walked her through a low sodium, healthy supper for her and her Dad. Jar sauces taste wonderful, but are high in sodium. Maria’s Dad has high blood pressure. The fresh ingredients add lots of flavor and keeps the sodium level low. You can use fresh tomatoes, but being short of time, canned crushed tomatoes with no added salt is a good alternative. So over my earpiece as I drove into the evening sun, I talked Maria through a simple spaghetti sauce. My recipe is attached. If we can “phone it in”, you can too!

 

Spaghetti Marinara

1 Yellow Onion

4 – 6 Cloves of Garlic

1 Stalk of Celery

1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

1 Teaspoon Oregano

1 Cup Port Wine (Any other Red Wine you like.)

2 Tablespoon Honey

2 24 oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes (no salt added)

2 Tablespoons (plus or minus) Olive Oil

Chop your onion, celery and garlic cloves. In a dutch oven or other deep pot place the olive oil. Turn your heat to just below medium. Let the oil heat up. Add your onion and celery. Lightly salt them and let them “sweat” for about 5 minutes. Your garlic goes into the pot next, let it work another 3 minutes. Pour in your wine and let it cook for about 5 more minutes. This cooks out most of the alcohol and removes any yummy goodies that may be on the bottom of your pot. The tomatoes are next up. Mix in the honey and the rest of your seasonings. Let that heat through. Now you can take a taste. Add pepper, salt or oregano as needed. 

At this point you can start boiling your pasta. I like angel hair. You can also remove your pot from the stove and place it in your oven at 170 degrees and let it slow cook covered for 2 to 4 hours. Now you have a very mature spaghetti sauce. You can add green peppers, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms or sausage. The combinations are limitless!

Have fun,

Christina